Hawaii Employment Law Decisions May 29, 2016 to June 4, 2016 – Jeffrey S. Harris

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District court properly granted partial summary judgment under the Fair Labor Standards Act, because city improperly excluded cash in lieu of benefits payments made under flexible benefits plan from calculation of police officer's regular rate of pay for purpose of paying overtime compensation.  Since 40% or more of the city's contributions to the plan were paid directly to the officers rather than benefits, the cash payments were not incidental payments from a bona fide benefit plan excluded from the regular rate.  District court improperly concluded the officers were not entitled to liquidated damages and restricted to a two year statute of limitations.  Since the city took no affirmative steps to ensure its initial designation of the benefit payments complied with the FLSA and failed to establish it acted in good faith, the officers were entitled to liquidated damages and a three year statute of limitations.  Flores v. City of San Gabriel, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10018 (9th Cir. June 2, 2016).

District court properly denied union preliminary injunction against railroad changing employee availability rules without engaging in 'major dispute' process under Railway Labor Act (allowing self-help after negotiation and mediation exhausted).  Since railroad's argument changes were authorized by collective bargaining agreement was not 'obviously insubstantial' or 'frivolous', disagreement was 'minor dispute'.  Union's sole remedy was to seek arbitration under agreement.   Int'l  Assn. of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transp. Workers v. BNSF RY. Co., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 9866 (9th Cir May 31, 2016).

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.