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Hawaii Employment Law Decisions October 22, 2017 to October 28, 2017 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit

If the District Court determines employee did not obtain a more favorable judgment in his FLSA class action, the court must award the employer post-offer costs.  A less favorable final judgment is not an ultimate bar to attorney fees under the FLSA.  It is one factor a court must consider in determining a reasonable attorney fee under the FLSA.  Stewart v. San Luis Ambulance, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21186 (9th Cir. Oct. 25, 2017).

District Court improperly vacated arbitrator's award, on ground it did not "draw its essence" from the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”).  An arbitration award must be upheld "as long as the arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the contract and acting within the scope of his authority."  This is true even if the reviewing court is "convinced that the arbitrator misread the contract or erred in interpreting it."  Because the arbitrator interpreted and applied the CBA in reaching her conclusions, the award, even if incorrect, drew its essence from the agreement.  The District Court erred in concluding the arbitrator's award was so inconsistent and full of mistakes that any practical application of the Award is impossible and therefore that arbitrator did not make a final and definite award. An award is enforceable "even in the face of erroneous misinterpretations of law" unless it "exhibits a manifest disregard of law." At worst, the arbitrator may have misinterpreted the CBA, but she did not disregard it, and the plausibility of her interpretation is beyond judicial scrutiny. Nor is implementation of the award impossible; the award simply requires the employer to award "lap time" pay to employees working on their regularly scheduled days off.  Because the employer did not refuse to abide by the arbitrator's award, but rather sought judicial review of the award as was its right and did not make "frivolous" arguments, the Court of Appeals denied union’s fee request.  Holsum Bakery, Inc. v. Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers, Local 232, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21059 (9th Cir. Oct. 24, 2017).

District Court properly granted summary judgment against federal retaliation claim.  Employer had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating former employees: their refusal to work on weekends as assigned.  District Court properly granted summary judgment on FLSA claims against individuals, because they were not the former employee’s employer.  One individual had little to no contact with former employees day-to-day, and he did not direct the employees’ work activities during their shifts. The other individual did not maintain their personnel files or payroll records, nor did he have the unilateral power to terminate them.  District Court improperly applied doctrine of judicial estoppel to determine former employees were subject to the bona fide executive exemption to the FLSA overtime provision. The former employees’ immigration applications were almost entirely predictive of what their job duties would be and were not descriptions of their actual job duties during the time at issue.  District Court improperly failed to rule on admissibility of former employees’ declarations, which included no certifications of translation.  Because the Court of Appeals vacated the summary judgment on one of the former employee’s federal claims, it also remanded for the District Court to reconsider whether it would exercise supplemental jurisdiction over their state law claims.  Shin v. Uni-Caps, LLC, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 20852 (9th Cir. Oct. 23, 2017).

U.S. District Court for District of Hawaii

District Court granted summary judgment on discrimination and retaliation claims against parent of the holding company whose subsidiary hired former employee.  Former employee offered no evidence that the parent-subsidiary relationship was a 'sham' or that circumstances exist that would render the parent liable for the debts of its subsidiary; or the parent corporation participated in or influenced the employment policies of the wholly owned subsidiary or the parent corporation undercapitalized the subsidiary to defeat potential recovery.  The integrated employer test did not apply because Title VII covered former employee’s employer.  Former employee failed to satisfy test by showing (1) interrelation of operations, (2) common management, (3) centralized control of labor relations, and (4) common ownership or financial control.  Mearig v. Chugach Alaska Corp., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175418 (D. Haw. Oct. 23, 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.