Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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After Indianapolis police officers Anders and Carmack divorced, Anders stalked and threatened Carmack. The police department eventually opened a criminal investigation and placed a GPS tracking device on Anders's car with a warning mechanism to alert Carmack if he passed nearby. Carmack spent nights away from home so Anders could not locate her. Anders eventually discovered the device on his car and called Robinett—his friend and fellow police officer—who examined it and confirmed that the device was a GPS. Robinett did not tell investigators that Anders had discovered the device. Days later Anders drove to Carmack’s house and killed her and himself. She was not alerted to his approach. Carmack’s estate sued the city, Robinett, and others. The judge granted the defendants summary judgment, holding that Robinett was not liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983 because he did not act under color of state law. Robinett requested that the city pay his attorney’s fees and costs under the Indiana public-employee indemnification statute. The judge denied the motion, ruling that the statute applies only when the employee acted within the scope of his employment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A mere allegation that the employee acted within the scope of his employment does not trigger the indemnification obligation. View "Robinett v. City of Indianapolis" on Justia Law

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Lieutenant Perales (Hispanic) asked Officer Robinson (biracial) why he did not shave his facial hair in compliance with Department policy. Robinson’s doctor’s note was deemed inadequate. Robinson has folliculitis, a painful skin condition that most often occurs in black men who shave. Weeks later, Robinson revived the issue. Lieutenant Hersey (African‐American) was present. Perales told Robinson that his inquiry was not racially based and recounted that Chicago police used to say that “We don’t back n‐‐‐‐rs up” and Perales claimed, “That’s not me.” Hersey told Perales that this was inappropriate but did not report the incident. Weeks later, Robinson told Perales that he had scheduled another doctor’s appointment and invited Perales to look at his scars, caused by shaving. Perales responded, “it must be the n‐‐‐‐r in you.” Robinson's partner, Pawlik, overheard. Robinson submitted a grievance. Chief Richardson (African-American) imposed a 20‐day suspension. Robinson, Pawlik, and watch commander Spangler noticed that Perales was subjecting Robinson to particular scrutiny. Perales and Hersey directed Spangler to “go against” Robinson and Pawlik. Spangler refused. Another officer reported that Perales had stated that Robinson and Pawlik needed to “watch [their] asses.” Following Robinson's second grievance. Perales was found not to have engaged in any wrongdoing and was reassigned to Internal Affairs. Robinson was passed over for promotion. Spangler received two unwarranted notices of infraction, then was bumped from his watch commander position. In Robinson and Spangler's suit, the court granted the defendants judgment on all claims except for Robinson’s retaliation claim against Perales and the Board. A jury found against Perales and in favor of the Board, awarding Robinson one dollar. The court declined to award Robinson attorneys’ fees. The Seventh Circuit vacated the defendants' judgment on Robinson’s claim for racial harassment and Spangler’s claim for retaliation and otherwise affirmed. View "Spangler v. Perales" on Justia Law

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The Union sought to represent Jam’s employees, part-time stagehands who handle equipment at various venues; their employment is sporadic. On September 30, 2015, Jam and the Union identified the potential bargaining unit as full-time and regular part-time production employees at specific venues, employed during the payroll period ending on October 4, 2015. The petition was held in abeyance pending the investigation of the Union's unfair labor practice charge, based on Jam’s termination of a crew leader and 53 employees.The charge was resolved in April 2016; Jam would reinstate the employees by offering them immediate, full participation in Jam’s “on-call list.” In the May 2016 election, Jam included on its voter eligibility list five stagehands hired during two weeks after October 4, 2015. The Union prevailed 22-10; an additional 21 ballots were challenged. Five were ballots cast by employees hired during the two week period. The Board’s Acting Regional Director concluded that Jam’s challenge fell short of requiring that the election be aside. The Director sustained the Union’s challenges to the ballots of four of the “two week” employees and certified the Union. An NLRB panel affirmed. The Seventh Circuit declined to enforce the order requiring Jam to bargain with the Union, finding enough evidence to warrant an evidentiary hearing on Jam’s argument that, in the period before the election, the Union attempted to influence the election outcome by steering premium union jobs to Jam employees. View "National Labor Relations Board v. Jam Productions, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Khowaja was an Immigration Enforcement Agent, 2008-2012. He then began employment as an FBI Special Agent on a two-year probationary term. Khowaja’s lack of judgment was frequently cited as a concern by his immediate supervisor, SSA Green. In June 2013, Green and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jones approved a recommendation for removal report, listing several examples; Khowaja did not dispute the examples. The report concluded Khowaja’s arrogance, avoidance of senior agents, and defensiveness had hindered his judgment. Jones and Green informed Khowaja that his removal was being sought. Days later, Khowaja contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In July 2013, the Assistant Administrative Director of the FBI’s Human Resources Division terminated Khowaja's employment. Khowaja alleged that Green, a white Christian, asked Khowaja during their first meeting if he was Muslim, questioned him about his faith, used Arabic holy phrases in a derogatory manner; mocked Middle Eastern accents, and pointed out that Khowaja is Muslim during a presentation to other agents. Khowaja noted a remark by Jones to a police chief that Khowaja was “not our typical agent.” Khowaja asserted that he was held to a different standard than his peers. Khowaja alleged that he was unlawfully discriminated against because he is Muslim, (Title VII, Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16(a)), and that he was intentionally, unlawfully terminated in retaliation for beginning the EEOC process (42 U.S.C. 2000e-3(a)). The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. View "Khowaja v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Sutula‐Johnson sold office furniture. In 2010, OfficeMax adopted a compensation plan that paid a commission rate depending on the sale’s profit. Commissions were earned either when a customer paid or 90 days after the customer was invoiced, whichever came first. Sutula‐Johnson negotiated better terms and earned commissions upon invoicing. OfficeMax and Office Depot merged in 2013. Office Depot continued paid Sutula‐Johnson and her colleagues under the terms of the old OfficeMax plan. In July 2014, Office Depot announced a new compensation plan for furniture sales, effective immediately. Sutula‐Johnson claims she did not receive a copy of the new plan for several weeks. The new plan significantly changed how Sutula‐Johnson was paid and reduced her total pay. She initially refused to sign it, complaining about its application to sales already in the works but not yet invoiced. Sutula‐Johnson continued working for Office Depot for more than a year. In 2015 Sutula‐Johnson resigned and sued for breach of contract and violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, 820 ILCS. 115/1. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Office Depot on the breach of contract claims but reversed as to the statutory claims. Sutula‐Johnson accepted the new terms by continuing to work but offered evidence that Office Depot violated the Wage Act by failing to pay her commissions monthly and by failing to pay her commissions earned before she resigned. View "Sutula-Johnson v. Office Depot, Inc." on Justia Law

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When Goplin began working at WeConnect, he signed the “AEI Alternative Entertainment Inc. Open Door Policy and Arbitration Program,” which referred to AEI throughout; it never mentioned WeConnect. Goplin brought a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. WeConnect moved to compel arbitration, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), attaching an affidavit from its Director of Human Resources stating, “I am employed by WeConnect, Inc.—formerly known as Alternative Entertainment, Inc. or AEI.” Goplin claimed that WeConnect was not a party to the agreement and could not enforce it. He cited language on WeConnect’s website: WeConnect formed when two privately held companies, Alternative Entertainment, Inc. (AEI) and WeConnect Enterprise Solutions, combined in September 2016… we officially became one company. WeConnect asserted that WeConnect and AEI were two names for the same legal entity, stating: This was a name change, not a merger. The court held that WeConnect did not establish that it was a party to the agreement or otherwise entitled to enforce it. The court rejected subsequently-submitted corporate-form documents and affidavits, stating that new evidence cannot be introduced in a motion for reconsideration unless the movant shows “not only that [the] evidence was newly discovered or unknown to it until after the hearing, but also that it could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced such evidence.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Goplin v. WeConnect, Inc." on Justia Law

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Simpkins began working for DuPage Housing Authority (DHA) in 2009 under an “Independent Contractor Agreement” for “general labor” to rehabilitate vacant properties to make them suitable for occupants. In 2011, the rehab work slowed and Simpkins began working primarily at Ogden townhome community, for which DHA served as on‐site management. Ogden’s property manager and maintenance supervisor, DHA employees, gave Simpkins instructions and prioritized the order in which he needed to complete tasks. In May 2012, Simpkins and DHA entered into another “Independent Contractor Agreement,” covering “general labor” at Ogden. Simpkins worked full‐time and exclusively for DHA; reported his hours by invoice; and was paid bi‐weekly via check. DHA issued Simpkins 1099‐MISC tax forms, while others received W‐2 forms. Simpkins knew that DHA considered him an independent contractor and repeatedly requested to become an employee. DHA did not provide him with pension, insurance, or other benefits. In 2015, Simpkins was injured in a car accident; his relationship with DHA ended. He filed suit, claiming that DHA had repeatedly failed to pay him overtime and was required to provide him with disability benefits. The district court ruled that Simpkins was not an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act and rejected all of his federal claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding genuine issues of fact as to the control exercised by DHA, questions concerning the origin of tools and material, and ambiguity as to the termination date of the second contract. View "Simpkins v. DuPage Housing Authority" on Justia Law

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Kennedy had decades of experience working for Schneider Electric and taught classes, part-time, in electrical and industrial safety at Prairie State community college. Schneider requires its employees to obtain advance approval before they teach classes or submit articles for publication. Without obtaining permission, Kennedy published articles about power-distribution equipment, identifying himself as a Prairie State instructor. When Schneider learned of these articles a manager contacted Prairie State to ask about Kennedy’s course materials, which she worried might contain proprietary information. Weeks later, while reviewing instructors' credentials, Prairie State realized that Kennedy did not possess the qualifications to teach and did not rehire Kennedy as an adjunct instructor. A year later, Kennedy sued Schneider, alleging defamation and malicious interference with an advantageous relationship. The court granted Schneider summary judgment, finding that Prairie State acted solely because Kennedy did not meet its credentialing requirements and not because of Schneider’s telephone call. More than a year later, Kennedy moved to set aside the judgment (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(d)(3)), asserting that Schneider’s lawyers knowingly submitted perjured evidence. The court denied the motion, stating that the cited evidentiary discrepancies were known at the time of summary judgment, and granted Rule 11 sanctions against Kennedy’s lawyer for having to defend against the motion ($10,627.16). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Kennedy could have challenged the same evidence on summary judgment. If the court made a mistake, Kennedy could have asked for reconsideration or appealed. View "Kennedy v. Schneider Electric" on Justia Law

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Milliman, then a McHenry County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) deputy, gave a deposition in which he accused Sheriff Nygren of corruption, bribery, securing fraudulent loans, trafficking illegal aliens, and soliciting two murders. Nygren and his subordinates referred Milliman to a psychologist to evaluate whether he was fit for duty. The psychologist determined that Milliman suffered from cognitive and psychological problems from a previous brain tumor that rendered him unfit to perform his duties. MCSD terminated Milliman based upon the results of that examination, the false allegations against Nygren, and violations of MCSD General Orders. Milliman sued Nygren, Nygren’s subordinates, and the county under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that defendants violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him for protected speech. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants and the Seventh Circuit affirmed, on the ground that the fitness‐for‐ duty examination provided an independent, non‐retaliatory, non‐pretextual basis for Milliman’s termination. The court rejected Milliman’s argument that a jury could question whether Milliman’s fitness examination was ordered in good faith because he received a “standard” rating in his last annual performance review, citing the importance of such precautionary measures in the law enforcement context due to “the risks posed by an officer who is not well enough to work.” View "Milliman v. Prim" on Justia Law

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Joint Logistics (JL) hired Oliver, an African-American, as a truck driver in 2012, subject to a Collective Bargaining Agreement, which outlined two seniority units: the Motor Vehicle Repair Employees and the Motor Vehicle Operation Employees (transportation unit). When JL conducted layoffs, the most junior employees within a “seniority unit” were let go first. When JL filled a position more senior employees within the unit had hiring priority. At various points during 2013–2015, Oliver was laid off from and subsequently recalled to his position in the transportation unit. Each time he was laid off, Oliver was the least senior member of that unit. In 2014, Oliver applied for an open mechanic position in the repair unit. Vance, a white male, also applied. Neither had seniority over the other. While JL considered his application, Oliver filed a charge with the EEOC alleging discrimination and retaliation. Weeks later, JL hired Vance to fill the position. During the following months, JL filled other mechanic positions, for which Oliver did not apply. Oliver brought discrimination and retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. 1981. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of JL. Oliver cannot establish a prima facie case that he was laid off because of his race; he presented no adequate comparators. Oliver cannot demonstrate that JL hid a discriminatory motive when it failed to hire him for the mechanic position. View "Oliver v. Joint Logistics Managers, Inc." on Justia Law