Corporate, Litigation, and Labor & Employment Lawyers

Honolulu and Hilo, HI

Hawaii Employment Law Cases July 9, 2017 to July 15, 2017 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District Court properly interpreted local pension plan and reciprocal agreement with another plan to prevent trustees of local plan from withholding contributions to fund critical status deficit from contributions for hours a traveler from other plan worked in jurisdiction rather than transferring the contributions to traveler’s home jurisdictions according to the agreement.  Lehman v. Nelson, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12619 (9th Cir. July 14, 2017).

District Court properly granted summary judgment against retaliation claim because former employee failed to raise genuine dispute of material fact whether there was causal link between his protected activity and his performance review or layoff.   District Court properly granted summary judgment against discrimination claim based on layoff because former employee failed to raise genuine dispute of material fact whether employer's legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for laying him off were pretextual.  District Court improperly granted summary judgement against discrimination claim based on 2009 unsatisfactory review because former employee raised genuine dispute of material fact whether he established a prima facie case for employment discrimination and whether the employer's reasons for the unsatisfactory review were pretextual. The record contained disputed material facts about what performance expectations the employer communicated to the former employee and whether former employee was performing according to those expectations. The record also contained disputed material facts whether the employer treated other employees with qualifications similar to the former employee more favorably.  Robinson v. Cty. of San Joaquin, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12647 (9th Cir. July 14, 2017).

District Court did not err concluding employee established a prima facie case of disparate impact in the employer’s selection process.  District Court did not clearly err: (a) finding all applicants whose applications employer withheld based on their answer to one question on the application were Latino; (b) crediting employee’s statistical expert who testified expected percentage of Latinos adversely affected was 42.1%; and (c) concluding employer’s statistical expert conceded even if two of seven applicants had their applications withheld in part due to the question, use of the question had a statistically adverse effect on Latinos.  Applying the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's rule concluding a selection practice has a disparate impact if it has a selection rate for any race, sex, or ethnic group which is less than four-fifths of the rate for the group with the highest rate, District Court properly concluded the employee established a prima facie case of disparate impact in employment selection practices.  District Court did not err concluding employer failed to establish the challenged question had a significant relationship with important elements of the job or training program, not merely some rational basis, because the employer did not individually assess the employee and at least three other Latino candidates, and because the employer likely misunderstood their answer to the question. The bottom line defense, an appropriate racial balance, did not preclude the employees from establishing a prima facie case nor did it provide the employer with a defense.  Guerrero v. Cal. Dep’t of Corr. & Rehab., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12450 (9th Cir. July 12, 2017).

U.S. District Court for District of Hawaii

District Court granted summary judgment against discrimination claim, because former employee did not offer specific and substantial evidence her supervisors statements showing discriminatory animus about Chinese people were basis for the adverse action against her.  Former employee continuing to make errors supervisor counseled her on, not improving her relationship with co-workers and being argumentative and combative to supervisors, co-workers and customers were legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for extension of probation and termination.  Former employee did not offer enough evidence to raise genuine issue of material fact whether supervisor’s discriminatory animus more likely than not motived her termination.  Workers’ compensation law barred former employee’s emotional distress claim arising out of employment discrimination.  District Court denied summary judgment against Title VII retaliation claim.  Employee offered direct evidence supervisor threatened to terminate her employment if she continued complaining about discrimination, requesting reevaluation, and talking bad about the supervisor to other people.  The supervisor made the statements directly to the employee, they reflected the basis for the employee’s termination that occurred afterwards and intertwined with the complaints.  Even though employer presented evidence of the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason, employee’s direct evidence of retaliatory motive for her termination prevented summary judgment.   Li v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109520 (D. Haw. July 14, 2017).

Magistrate Judge approved and ordered report and recommendation of special master about claims for overtime compensation under Fair Labor Standards Act by collective class of emergency medical technicians employed by City and County of Honolulu.  Adams v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108466 (D. Haw. July 10, 2017).


Note: We analyze cases to learn rules courts will follow or disappoint us if they do not. Rules courts follow allow us to behave and provide explanations they accept. Competent advocates may limit the rules to the facts of the case that discuss them, or expand the rules by showing differences in other cases are irrelevant.