Hawaii Employment Law Decisions May 21, 2017 to May 27, 2017 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District Court abused discretion by denying enforcement of EEOC subpoena for “pedigree information” (name, Social Security number, last known address, and telephone number) for employees or prospective employees who took physical capability strength test charging party failed, on ground the information was not relevant.  District Court was free on remand to decide whether producing the pedigree information and reasons test takers were terminated would be unduly burdensome.  EEOC v. McLane Co., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9027 (9th Cir May 24, 2017).

District Court did not err granting summary judgment against Title VII retaliation claim.  Former employee failed to present specific substantial evidence to rebut employer’s legitimate reason for termination, stated in work evaluations reflecting significant concerns about employee’s performance including one issued months before he complained about discrimination.  Tarbuck v. State of Nevada, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9051 (9th Cir. May 24, 2017).

Labor union’s uneven distribution of proceeds from bankruptcy settlement to members did not violate its duty of fair representation.  Union exercised judgment to distribute more proceeds to members who did not accept early retirement offers.  The decision did not plausibly distribute less proceeds to members who accepted early retirement benefits based on raw political power.  The union did not act in bad faith by first disclosing how it would distribute the proceeds after the deadline for accepting early retirement benefits.  Demetris v. Transp. Workers Union of Am., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8876 (9th Cir. May 22, 2017).

Settlement of former employee’s wrongful termination lawsuit waiving right to bring any ERISA claims against former employer and related entities barred former employee’s later action challenging termination of his benefits by employer’s long term disability plan.  Gonda v. Permanente Med. Group, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8888 (9th Cir. May 22, 2017).

U.S. District Court District of Hawaii

District Court granted summary judgment against disability discrimination claim.  Labor and Industrial Relations Board decision affirmed by Intermediate Court of Appeals collaterally estopped employee from showing she was impaired.  No reasonable jury could find she was substantially limited in working compared to most people in the general population and even though she could create a dispute of material fact whether the employer failed to engage in interactive process, no reasonable accommodation was possible.  District Court granted summary judgment against retaliation claim.  Former employee could create no dispute of material fact her request for reasonable accommodation caused her termination given previous expiration of extended injury status resulting in automatic termination.  Expiration of extended injury status was a legitimate non-discriminatory explanation for her termination no reasonable jury could find was pretextual.  Kuehu v. United Airlines, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81591 (D. Haw. May 26, 2017).

Note: We analyze cases to learn rules the courts will follow or disappoint us if they don’t. Rules that the courts follow allow us to behave and provide explanations they accept. But competent advocates may limit the rules to the facts of the case where they are discussed, or expand rules by showing that differences in other cases are irrelevant.