Category Archives: Appellate

SCOTUS considers whether union neutrality agreements violate Labor Law

The U.S. Supreme Court considered whether “neutrality agreements” between unions and employers violate federal labor law.  Neutrality agreements are contracts between labor unions and employers under which the employers agree to support a union’s attempt to organize its workforce.

In Unite Here Local 355 v. Muhall, the Supreme Court will decide whether these agreements are a “thing of value.”  This definition matters because under Labor Law the exchange of things of value between a labor union and an employer are a felony.  Further, it is a crime for a union to request, demand, receive or accept or agree to receive or accept, any payment, loan, or delivery of any money or other thing of value prohibited by the statute.

Under the agreements, businesses help labor unions in organization efforts in exchange for labor peace, the New York Times reports. The Washington Post offers some examples: An employer might grant access to employee lists or agree to remain neutral in exchange for union concessions, such as giving up the right to strike.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that it was a “thing of value” because it includes tangibles and intangibles.  In other words, while the employer and the union can agree on the ground rules, the assistance in this case would constitute payment.

The assistance the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals referred to was as follows.  The casino (employer) agreed to allow union access to worker information and casino grounds, and to allow a unionization vote by cards collected from workers, rather than a secret ballot. The union agreed to refrain from picketing or striking during the union drive.

It is important to note that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals failed to take into consideration whether there was monetary value.

What is mind boggling is the fact that neutrality agreements are not only common, but they help avoid conflict and encourages the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.  The preamble of the National Labor Relations Act supports labor peace and the encouragement of the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.

The outcome of this contentious and heavily litigated case remains unknown.  The Supreme Court, specifically Justice Roberts, focused on the card-check portion of the neutrality agreement.  Justice Kagan focused on how the benefits bargained by the union benefit employees and unions.

via SCOTUS considers whether union neutrality agreements are improper ‘thing of value’.

Leave a comment

Filed under Appellate, civil rights, courts, discrimination, employment, federal, labor, legal decision, NLRB, union

Discrimination for being “unmanly”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (en banc) ruled that an iron worker who was subjected to gay slurs and simulated sex because he failed to conform to the employer’s male stereotypes was discriminated against under Title VII.

In EEOC v. Boh Bros. Constr. Co., No. 11-30770 (5th Cir. Sept. 27, 2013), the  court reviewed the jury’s findings and awarded damages.  The Fifth Circuit found that taking the case as a whole, a jury could have found that the employee was harassed because he did not fall under the “manly-man stereotype.”

This case arose when a worker, Kerry Woods, was subjected to sex harassment.  Woods was often sexual derogatory terms regarding Woods’ sexuality.  In addition, the superintendent also exposed himself when Woods was going to the bathroom, and made sexual innuendo comments to Woods.  When these actions were brought to the employer, the superintendent told the general superintendent that he didn’t care for Woods because he was “different” and “didn’t fit in.”

After trial the jury found that this verbal and physical harassment occurred daily.  The jury awarded Woods $200,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.

via Harassed for being unmanly? En banc court sees Title VII violation; dissent sees clean-talk enforcer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Appellate, civil rights, discrimination, District Court, employment, federal, legal decision

Targeting Union Employees For Layoffs Violates The First Amendment

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals brings an interesting labor decision.  In State Employee Bargaining Coalitation v. Roland, ___F.3d___( 2d Cir. May 31, 2013), the court found that targeting Union employees for layoffs violates the First Amendment (freedom of association).

In this case, the employer employed around 50,000 people.  75% of these employees were members of the Union, and 25% were not.  In December 2002, the employer fired only Union employees.  No non-Union employees were fired.

It is important to note that an employer can manage the size of their work force.  However, the employer cannot target a protected group (here, employees who associated themselves with the Union).  The reason for this is because by targeting a protected group, the effect is to inhibit employees from their freedom to associate.

Under the Constitution, in order for the employer to not violate the Constitution it must show that they used the less restrictive means to accomplish their interest and must be narrowly tailored to achieve their goals.

The following are the pivotal facts of this case.  The employer’s interest was to manage their economical situation.  However, the laying off those Union employees had a minimal effect on their budget.  In fact, these Union-only lay offs were not included in the Balanced Budget Plan.  Further, the facts showed that because both Union and non-Union employees had the same health care and pension benefits there was no reason why only the Union employees were targeted.

via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: Targeting Union Employees For Layoffs Violates The First Amendment.

2 Comments

Filed under Appellate, civil rights, courts, discrimination, District Court, employment, federal, labor, legal decision, union

Prop. 8: official proponents of Prop 8 could not appeal

The Supreme Court decided Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144 (2013), holding that petitioners did not have standing to appeal Proposition 8.

As background, California granted same-sex marriages.  However, this was later reversed through Proposition 8.  Under Proposition 8, California Constitution was changed to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  The California Supreme Court held that Proposition 8 left the rights of same-sex couples largely undisturbed, reserving only the official designation of the term marriage for the union of opposite-sex couples.

The parties in this lawsuit help explain the Supreme Court’s decision.  Respondents (Plaintiffs), two same-sex couples who wished to marry, filed a lawsuit in federal court. Defendants (including the Governor, Attorney General, and other officials) did not decent the law.  Nevertheless, Defendants continued to enforce the law.

Petitioners, who appealed, were official proponents of Proposition 8.  Petitioners, instead of Defendants, defended Proposition 8.  The District Court then held that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.    Petitioners (not Defendants) appealed.

Now the question is: do these Petitioners have standing in order to be involved in this case?  The California Supreme Court held that Petitioners were authorized to appear and assert the state’s interest in the validity of Proposition 8.  The Ninth Circuit then affirmed the District Court’s decision, ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruled that Petitioners did not have standing.  First of all, when Proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional two things happened: Respondents (Plaintiffs) no longer had an injury to redress because they won; and Defendants chose not to appeal.

Petitioners did not have a personal and individual injury.  There was no “direct stake” in the outcome of the appeal.  In other words, they were pushing a generalized grievance.  Consequently, Petitioners could not appeal.

The Supreme Court explained,

No matter how deeply committed petitioners may be to upholding Proposition 8 or how “zealous [their] advocacy,” that is not a “particularized” interest sufficient to create a case or controversy under Article III.

Leave a comment

Filed under Appellate, civil rights, courts, legal decision, state, Supreme Court

Sup. Ct. allows Class Action Arbitration under FAA

In Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter, No. 12-125 (2013), the Supreme Court ruled that an arbitrator can require a class action arbitration.

The gist of the case is that Sutter, a pediatrician, had a fee-for-services contract, which required arbitration for all contractual disputes.  When Oxford failed to promptly pay him and other physicians, Sutter filed a class action in New Jersey.  After filing, the court compelled arbitration.  The arbitrator concluded that the contract called for class action arbitration.  Sutter appealed to higher courts, but these appeals were denied.

The Supreme Court explained its decision as follows.  First, the parties agreed to go to arbitration in their contract.  Second, an arbitrator looks at the contract, makes a decision based on the contractual language, and this decision is binding.  Thirdly, and most importantly, the Supreme Court explained that judicial review is limited to whether the arbitrator interpreted the contract, not whether the court agreed with the decision.  Consequently, because the arbitrator considered the contract, the arbitrator’s decision stands.  They only way to vacate an arbitral decision is when an arbitrator strayed from his task of interpreting the contract.  In other words, not when he performed his task poorly.

As a note: In prior decisions (Steelworkers Trilogy/Misco) in the labor context under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), the Supreme Court had ruled that a contractual language had to explicitly allow class actions in the arbitration clause.  Here, the arbitration clause did not do so.

This raises the question of how the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) reconciles with LMRA arbitrations when they are both present.  In this case, only the FAA was involved.

via Workplace Prof Blog: SCOTUS OKs Class Arbitration.

Leave a comment

Filed under Appellate, courts, employment, labor, legal decision, Supreme Court, union, waiver

Minn. Sup. Ct. reins in expungement power

Minnesota Lawyer (subscription required) has an interesting article regarding expungement of adult and juvenile cases.

In this decision, the Minn. Sup. Ct. declined to recognize a court’s inherent authority to order expungement of executive branch records of an adult’s criminal history (State v. M.D.T.).  When explaining prior precedent, the court differentiated State v. C.A., where the language was dicta and the case did not involve executive records.

The Minn. Sup. Ct. also narrowly construed a juvenile’s statutory expungement remedy in companion cases (In the Matter of the Welfare of: J.J.P.).  Here, the court held that the authority of the court under Minn. Stat. sec. 260B.198 is limited to the order adjudicating the juvenile delinquent.

Leave a comment

Filed under Appellate, courts, legal decision, Minnesota, Privacy Rights, state, Supreme Court

Supreme Court and collective action dismissals

The Supreme Court has recently decided a collective action case that affects how the litigation process can be cut promptly by defendants.  In summary of the details below, a plaintiff loses its interest in a collective action when an offer completely satisfies the plaintiff’s claim.  Further, if the plaintiff does not move for certification, even though the lawsuit had already started, the plaintiff’s case ends if the claim is no longer alive.

What this might imply is that plaintiffs in a collective action would need to move promptly when seeking certification.  The question, however, is: would you have enough supporting evidence by then?

In Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 11-1059 (2013), the Supreme Court held that a collective action (FLSA) is moot when the named plaintiff has no continuing personal interest in the outcome of the lawsuit and no motion for conditional certification has been filed.

The District Court, finding that no other individuals had joined her suit and the Rule 68 offer that was ignored fully satisfied her claim, dismissed the lawsuit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed.  However, the Supreme Court agreed with the District Court, and thus reversed the Court of Appeals’ opinion.

The Supreme Court explained that Sosna v. Iowa, 419 US 393 (1975) and United States Parole Comm’n v. Geraghty, 445 US 388 (1980), held that a class action that was erroneously denied relates back to the time of the erroneous denial — as long as the named plaintiff’s claim remains live at the time of the denial of the class certification.

The Supreme Court, here, found that the named plaintiff had not moved for conditional certification and her claim became moot.  Consequently, the relate back provision did not apply in her case.

As to the Rule 68 offer, the Supreme Court held that the purposes of a collective action would not be frustrated by the offer.  The plaintiff alleged that the Rule 68 had the effect to “pick off” the named plaintiffs before the collection action’s process had run its course.  The Supreme Court explained that in Deposit Guaranty Nat. Bank v. Roper, 445 US 326 (1980), when the Rule 68 offer did not provide complete relief, the named plaintiffs could appeal because they retained an ongoing, personal economic stake in the lawsuit.

Here, however, the named plaintiff conceded that the Rule 68 offer offered complete relief, and plaintiff asserted no continuing interest in shifting attorney’s fees and costs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Appellate, courts, employment, legal decision, rules, wage

Non-Citizens and Deportation for Convicted Crimes

Moncrieffe v. Holder, 11-702 (2013) is an interesting Supreme Court decision.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 USC 1101, provides that a non-citizen who has been convicted of an aggravated felony may be deported from the US.  As way of background, ordinarily, a non-citizen when facing deportation, may ask for discretionary forms of relief and cancellation of the removal.  The exception is for aggravated felonies.

This case comes because among the crimes that are classified as aggravated felonies are illicit drug trafficking offenses.  The issue the Supreme Court addressed is whether this category includes state criminal statutes that extends to the social sharing of a small amount of marijuana.

In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s position. The court explained that if a state crime of marijuana distribution does not closely match the federal crime of distribution, in a direct comparison of what each covers, it is not an “aggravated felony.”

In this case, the non-citizen came to the US legally in 1984.  In a traffic stop, the police found 1.3 grams of marijuana.  The non-citizen pled guilty to the charge of possession with the intent to distribute.  Under Georgia statute, this violation may be punishable up to 5 years.  Given this, the government alleged this was an aggravated felony.

The Supreme Court rejected this argument because it held the generically defined federal crime is “any federal punishable under the Controlled Substances Act.” 18 USC 924(c)(2).  “[N]ot just any offense ‘under the CSA’.”

The Supreme Court further explained,

This is the third time in seven years that we have considered whether the Government has properly characterized a low-level drug offense as ‘illicit trafficking in a controlled substance,’ and thus an ‘aggravated felony.’  Once again we hold that the Government’s approach defies ‘the commonsense conception’ of these terms….

Sharing a small amount of marijuana for no remuneration, let alone possession with intent to do so, ‘does not fit easily into the ‘every day understanding’ of ‘trafficking,” which ordinarily… means some sort of commercial dealing.’…

Nor is it sensible that a state statute that criminalizes conducted that the CSA treats as a misdemeanor should be designated an ‘aggravated felony.’  We hold that it may not be.

Leave a comment

Filed under Appellate, civil rights, courts, immigration, legal decision, Supreme Court

Jane Kelly confirmed for 8th Circuit bench

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Jane Kelly to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 96-0.  There were 4 non-voting votes.  If you can’t find the link, go here and find Vote 00108 (April 24th).

Jane Kelly will be the second woman and first public defender to serve in the history of the court since its establishment in 1891.

Jane Kelly received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1991.  After her graduation, Jane Kelly clerked for U.S. District Judge Donald J. Porter of South Dakota and Eighth Circuit Court Judge D. Hansen.

Jane Kelly has been an assistant public defender in the Northern District in Iowa since 1992, and the supervising attorney since 1999.

On the Senate floor, Senator Chuck Grassley stated, “She is a credit to all of use who have chosen public service.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Appellate, courts, Judges, Pending Legislation

Supreme Court refuses to hear 2nd Amendment case

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case that contended the Second Amendment protects the right to carry a gun in public.  The denial of this petition had no comments.  Because there were no comments to the denied petition, there is no way to know why the Supreme Court chose not to get involved in this controversy.

The case is Kachalsky v. Cacace.  The issues presented to the Supreme Court were:

  1. Whether the Second Amendment secures a right to carry handguns for self-defense outside the home; and
  2. Whether state officials violate the Second Amendment by denying handgun carry licenses to responsible, law-abiding adults for lack of “proper cause” to bear arms for self-defense.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals (Kachalsky v. County of Westchester, 701 F.3d 81 (2d. Cir. 2012)) affirmed the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment to the State.  The district court found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.  The district court concluded that carrying concealed weapons in public is “outside of the core of the Second Amendment concern.”  Alternatively, the district court also concluded that the “proper cause” requirement would survive the scrutiny under the Second Amendment.

The SCOTUS blog,

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Appellate, civil rights, legal decision, Supreme Court