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Hawaii Employment Law Decisions from March 15 to March 21 – Jeffrey S. Harris

A former employee terminated shortly after complaining to her supervisors about discrimination and accounting regularities made a prima facie case of retaliation, but failed to offer any "specific and substantial circumstantial evidence" showing any dispute over whether the company's legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for her termination were a pretext for unlawful retaliation. Lui v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 4734 (9th Cir. March 23, 2015)

An employer responded adequately to an employee's complaint of hostile work environment sexual harassment by its immediate response (interviewing witnesses, confronting the alleged harasser with the allegations and encouraging the employee to take steps needed to ensure her own comfort and health, including paying for her administrative leave while the investigation was ongoing), and permanent remedial steps (not concluding that the alleged harasser engaged in inappropriate behavior or that disciplinary action was warranted, inviting the employee to meet with human resources to discuss alternate arrangements that would limit her possible contact with the alleged harasser, and offering the possiblity of working at other facilities in the area). Her effectively petitioning the employer for relief from the harassment prevented her from making a constructive discharge claim. Nixon v. Catholic Health Initiatives, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 4493 (9th Cir. March 19, 2015).

A seaman's claims for conduct aboard a ship owned by the U.S. Maritime Administration but operated by a private company under a contract had such a sufficient maritime connection that they should have been brought against the United States under the Suits in Admiralty Act and the Public Vessels Act. Ali v. Rogers, 780 F.3d 1229, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 4435 (9th Cir. March 19, 2015).

A District Court did not erroneously enter judgment against an employee's discriminatory and retaliatory failure to promote claim, because the employee did not show that he applied for a promotion or the position he applied for, nor did he identify the person who vacated the position or the person who received the position. The District Court did not erroneously enter summary judgment against an employee's claim that the employer discriminated by relocating his disabled parking space, because the change in spaces did not affect the terms, conditions and privileges of employment. District Court did not erroneously enter summary judgment against an employee's claim for discriminatory or retaliatory reduction of hours because the employee showed no link between the reduction and the employee's request for reasonable accommodation. District Court did not erroneously enter summary judgment against an employee's claim for retaliatory coaching report, because the employer did not use the criticism to substantially and materially change the terms of his employment. Hardin v. Walmart Stores, Inc., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 44090 (9th Cir. March 18, 2015).

Beneficiaries filed a claim for lost benefits, accrued under ERISA at the time the benefits were denied or when they had reason to know that the claim had been denied. Their claim was barred because they failed to bring their claim within the time provided by the state statute of limitations for actions on written contract and the three year statute of limitations under ERISA for breach of fiduciary duty. Godes v. Pac. Gas & Elec. Co., 2015 U.S. App LEXIS 4248 (9th Cir. March 17, 2015).

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 that 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.