Tag Archives: employment

Fair Labor Standard Act and Individual Liability

In Torres et al. v. Gristedes Operating Corp. et al., Case No. 11-4035 (July 9, 2013), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that a mayoral candidate, a supermarket owner, and an executive can be individually liable for settlement payments arising of a Fair Labor Standard Act class action.

In this case, the parties settled the class action.  A class action is a discrimination case brought by a few plaintiffs on behalf of many employees.  All of the members who agreed to be part of the class (the individuals who were discriminated against) receive their part of the settlement.  In order for a fair disbursement, the Judge must adopt the settlement.

Under the settlement, the defendants agreed to pay $3.5 million to the class.  However, the defendants defaulted on the payments.  The judge’s order allowed the class to enforce the settlement.  Defendants, who sought to change the settlement, stated that they were not bound by the settlement because they were not “employers.”

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.  The Court noted that the defendants exercised “operational control” that affected the class’ employment.  For example, based of their decisions, the employees’ wages were affected.  Because defendants were employers, defendants were bound by the settlement.  Based on this decision, defendants now have to pay the owed money.

via Labor Employment Law Blog: Second Circuit Imposes Individual Liability on New York Mayoral Candidate for Fair Labor Standards Act Settlement.

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Safe Act for Victims of Domestic Violence of Sexual Assault

On October 1, 2013, the “Safe Act” becomes effective.  The Safe Act provides 20 days of unpaid leave to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  The employer can require that this unpaid leave be covered under FMLA, New Jersey FMLA, vacation, or personal leave.

The purpose of the Safe Act is to provide New Jersey victims with time to deal with matters related to an incident of domestic abuse or sexual assault.  The Safe Act covers:

  1. The employee,
  2. The employee’s child,
  3. The employee’s parent,
  4. The employee’s spouse,
  5. The employee’s domestic partner, or
  6. The employee’s civil union partner.

Within 12 months of the incident, the Safe Act’s purpose is to provide the victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault can:

  • Seek medical attention for, or recover from, physical or psychological injuries;
  • Obtain servies from victim services organization;
  • Obtain psychological or other counseling;
  • Participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanent relocate, or undertake other actions to increase safety;
  • Seek legal assistance or remedies; or
  • Attend, participate in, or prepare for court proceedings.

If the employer violates the Safe Act, the employee can ask for the following remedies: (1) Reinstatement; (2) compensation for lost wages and benefits; (3) an injunction; (4) attorney’s fees and costs; (5) civil find of $1,000 to $2,000 for a first time violation; and (6) a fine of $5,000 for any subsequent violations.

via Labor Employment Law Blog: New Jersey Provides Unpaid Leave to Victims of Domestic Violence.

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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.

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AMA declares obesity a disease

The American Medical Association (AMA) declared that obesity is a disease and not a condition.  AMA board member Patrice Harris stated in a statement,

Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue.

As background, the U.S. has been consistently rated as No. 1 in obesity.  Recently, Mexico took the No. 1 spot and the U.S. moved to No. 2.  See Huffington article, Mexico Obesity Rate Surpasses The United States (July 9, 2013).  Mexico was reported to have 32.8% obesity rate while the U.S. has a rate of 31.8%.

This new definition may have an unknown impact in disability claims.  The ABA Journal reports:

Although the AMA’s action was intended to affect medical treatment for the obese, “there’s a high probability it will make it easier for an obese employee to argue that he or she is disabled,” said partner Myra Creighton of Fisher & Phillips.

“It may be easier for employees to prove disability discrimination,” Creighton, who represents employers, told the newspaper. “And, if classified as a disease, it will be difficult for employers to argue that any level of obesity is not an impairment.”

The EmploymentEmployment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has previously defined a “morbid” obese individual as disabled.  Seee.g.JD Supra, Morbid Obesity as a Covered Disability under the ADA (July 30, 2012)EEOC Press Release (July 24, 2012); EEOC Press Release (Apr. 10, 2012), EEOC Press Release (Sept. 27, 2011).

It would be interesting to see if the EEOC will change its definition of obesity as a disability.

via Obesity is a disease, AMA says, aiding weight-related disability claims – ABA Journal.

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Fifth Circuit Holds Lactation Discrimination is Unlawful Sex Discrimination

The E.E.O.C. (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) issued a press release about an important decision coming from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In this decision, the court held that the company unlawfully discriminated against a female employee when they fired her.  In this case, the female employee was lactating or expressing milk.  The female employee asked her employer if she would be able to pump breast milk at work.  The company then fired the employee.

The court relied on the Title VII of Civil Rights Act, which was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1987.  The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provided that a company could not discriminate against a female worker on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the argument that “pregnancy-related conditions” ended on the day the mother gave birth.  In its decision, the court explained that lactation was a physiological condition distinct to women who have undergone a pregnancy.  In other words, women, not men, lactate or express milk.  Therefore, a company discriminates based on sex when it fires a woman for lactating.

via Fifth Circuit Holds Lactation Discrimination is Unlawful Sex Discrimination.

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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.

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EEOC’s First GINA Suit Settlement

The first settlement between the EEOC and an employer over GINA is important because it brings attention to this relatively new law.  EEOC charges alleging GINA violations have increased each year.  Consequently, it is important for employers to ensure their policies and procedures are compliant with GINA procedures.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) went into effect in 2009.  Some of GINA’s regulations are as follows.

  • It is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or applicants based on their genetic information.
  • Employers cannot request or obtain genetic information, which includes any information about an employee or an applicant’s family history.
  • GINA also applies to third parties.  So, employers cannot request or obtain family medical history, even through a third-party medical provider or examiner.
  • There are exceptions for voluntary health risk assessments.  However, if the employee is receiving an incentive for completion of the Health Risk Assessment, the employer must make clear that an employee need not answer any of the questions about family medical history in order to obtain the incentive.

On May 7, 2013, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) reached a milestone of sorts as it filed – and then settled – its first complaint ever alleging genetic discrimination under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”).

The EEOC filed suit in Oklahoma federal court against Fabricut Inc., one of the world’s largest distributors of decorative fabrics, alleging that Fabricut violated GINA and the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by unlawfully asking a job applicant for her family medical history in a pre-employment, post-job offer medical examination, and allegedly rescinding her job offer based on the belief that she had carpal tunnel syndrome.

The EEOC and Fabricut reached a settlement, which is the first settlement in a GINA case.  In the consent decree, Fabricut agreed to pay $50,000 but did not admit to violating GINA or the ADA.

via EEOC’s First GINA Suit Serves As Reminder of Pre-Employment Exam Pitfall | Proskauer Rose LLP – JDSupra.

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EEOC wins over $1.5 million in sexual harassment case

The EEOC has issued a press release announcing a big victory for sexual harassment cases.  These cases are often dismissed.  For instance, according to EEOC 2011 statistics, the EEOC received 11,364 sexual harassment complaints.  Of these, 53% were found to have no reasonable cause.  This is an increase from 2010, where the percentage was of 50.1%.  Since 1997, the percentage of cases dismissed has been in an upwards trend.

In the EEOC case against New Breed Logistics (Civil Action No. 2:10-cv-02696-STA-tmp), the jury awarded $177,094 in back pay, $486,000 in compensatory damages, and $850,000 in punitive damages.

Following the 7-day trial, the jury found that the warehouse supervisor subjected 3 temporary workers to unwelcome sexual touching and lewd, obscene and vulgar  sexual remarks at the company’s Avaya Memphis area warehouse facility.  Further, the jury found that a supervisor fired the three temp workers because they complained about the harassment.

 

via Jury Awards More Than $1.5 Million in EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Suit against New Breed Logistics | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – JDSupra.

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DOL clarifies expansion of FMLA due to ADAAA

The DOL published Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2013-1, which clarifies the expansion of FMLA.  The DOL explained that the ADA Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) expanded more than just employer liability for disability claims, but also expanded the scope of FMLA coverage for children.

The DOL clarified the following.

  • The DOL adopted the ADA’s definition of disability to define “mental or physical disability” for purposes of defining a son or daughter 18 years or older.  See 58 Fed. Reg. 31794, 31799 (June 4, 1993).  The 2008 FMLA Final Rule explicitly adopts the ADAAA’s changes to the ADA’s definition of disability;
  • The definition of a “son or daughter” is defined by the definition of a disability under the ADAAA, which “shall be construed in favor of broad coverage;”
  • The determination of whether an adult son or daughter is incapable of self-care under the FMLA focuses on whether the individual currently needs active assistance or supervision in performing three or more activities of daily living (or ADLs) including “grooming, hygiene, bathing, dressing and eating;” or instrumental activities of daily living (or IADLs) including “cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking public transportation, paying bills, maintaining a residence, using telephones, and using a post-office, etc.;”
  • A serious health condition is an illness, injury impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider; and
  • For a parent to take FMLA leave to care for an adult son or daughter, the parent must be “needed to care” for that son or daughter due to the serious health condition.

In the Administrative opinion, the DOL provides examples.

via Department of Labor Clarifies When an Employee May Take FMLA Leave to Care for Adult Children | Orrick – Global Employment Law Group – JDSupra.

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Successor Liability does not cover federal claims

Teed v. Thomas & Betts Power Solutions, LLC (7th Cir. 2013) held that  a buyer of a company’s assets can’t rely on state law to keep  a seller’s violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from transferring to the buyer of the Seller company’s assets.  This standard has been previously applied to the LMRA, NLRA, Title VII, ADEA, and FMLA.

The Seventh Circuit explained that federal labor law claims are governed by federal common law, not state law.  Further, the court explained that employees do not have the power to stop an owner from selling the company.  Therefore, the buyer (successor) is stuck with the seller’s (prior owner) liability regardless of what the contract states.

To determine whether successor liability will apply, the Seventh Circuit considered the following multi-part balancing test:

  1. Whether the successor had notice of the pending law suit;
  2. Whether the predecessor would have been able to provide the relief sought in the lawsuit before the sale;
  3. Whether the predecessor could have provided relief after the sale;
  4. Whether the successor can provide the relief sought in the suit (if not successor liability is a phantom); and
  5. Whether there is continuity between the operations and work force of the predecessor and the successor – which favors successor liability because nothing really has changed.

via Buyer Beware of Successor Liability For FLSA Claims | Sands Anderson PC – JDSupra.

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