Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Moss v. Shelby County Civil Service Merit Bd.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in this employment action, holding that a civil service merit board does not act arbitrarily or capriciously by declining to allow an employee who is challenging his termination for just cause to inquire about more lenient discipline imposed on other employees.Plaintiff, a Shelby County Fire Department employee, participated in an altercation involving a firearm at a political rally and was subsequently investigated. Due to the altercation and Plaintiff's dishonesty during the investigation, Plaintiff was fired. Plaintiff appealed, requesting that the Shelby County Civil Service Merit Board ask questions about discipline imposed on other fire department employees. The Board affirmed. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case, ruling that the Board arbitrarily and unreasonably excluded questions about other discipline. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board's decision to decline to consider evidence of discipline imposed on other employees was nor arbitrary or capricious. View "Moss v. Shelby County Civil Service Merit Bd." on Justia Law
Jason Payne v. Joseph Biden, Jr.
On November 22, 2021—the day federal employees were required to be vaccinated—Appellant filed suit in District Court, challenging the mandate’s constitutionality. Characterizing Appellant’s suit as a “workplace dispute involving a covered federal employee,” the District Court found Appellant’s claims were precluded under the CSRA and dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, Appellant insisted that he challenges the vaccine mandate’s constitutionality, as opposed to contesting a workplace dispute under the CSRA. According to his complaint, however, he alleged that the vaccine mandate is unconstitutional—at least in part—because it requires that he obtain the vaccine to avoid adverse employment action. The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that all attempts to characterize his argument as anything but a challenge to adverse employment action fail for jurisdictional purposes because Appellant himself admitted that his standing to challenge the vaccine mandate is rooted in the looming disciplinary action he now faces as a result of his continued noncompliance. In other words, Appellant challenges the vaccine mandate to maintain his employment while continuing to defy the mandate that he views as unlawful. And while his constitutional arguments are relevant to the merits, they do not change the fact that one of Appellant’s interests in this suit is to avoid the impending adverse employment action. Appellant’s claims are not wholly collateral because challenges to adverse employment actions are the type of claims that the MSPB regularly adjudicates. Thus, the court found that should Appellant choose to continue challenging the vaccine mandate, he must do so through the CSRA’s scheme. View "Jason Payne v. Joseph Biden, Jr." on Justia Law
Perez v. Dep’t of State Police
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court judge allowing the State police's motion for summary judgment and denying Plaintiff's request for back pay under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30, 59 (the Perry Law), holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to back pay or other relief under the terms of the Perry Law.Perry Law mandates back pay for a State employee who has been indicted on criminal charges due to job-related misconduct and, consequently, suspended from his position without pay if the charges are subsequently terminated without a finding or verdict of guilty. At issue was whether Plaintiff, who had been suspended from his position without pay pursuant to article 6.2 of the State police rules and regulations, was entitled to back pay under the Perry Law. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) when the colonel of the State police opted to suspend Plaintiff, he had discretion to choose whether to invoke the Perry Law or to proceed under article 6.2, which is unique to the State police; and (2) because the colonel decided to suspend Plaintiff in accordance with article 6.2 Plaintiff was not entitled to relief under the Perry Law. View "Perez v. Dep't of State Police" on Justia Law
Yuriy Mikhaylov v. Dept. of Homeland Security
Petitioner, an employee of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security (“ICE” or “Agency”), petitions for review of the final judgment of the Merit Systems Protection Board (the “Board”), which rejected Petitioner’s claim that the Agency suspended him for two days in retaliation for his disclosures of misconduct. The Fourth Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that after conducting a hearing and considering the evidence, the administrative judge denied the corrective action sought by Petitioner, concluding that Petitioner’s protected disclosures were not contributing factors to the discipline imposed and, alternatively, that the Agency proved by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the action even in the absence of the disclosures. The court denied the petition explaining that the administrative judge committed no legal error and his factual findings are supported by substantial evidence. View "Yuriy Mikhaylov v. Dept. of Homeland Security" on Justia Law
Chrz v. Mower County
The Supreme Court held that Claimant was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits after the date on which he no longer had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by a licensed professional using the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).From 2007 to 2020 Claimant was employed as a Mower County Deputy Sheriff. From September 25, 2019 to March 30, 2021, Claimant had a diagnosis of PTSD by a licensed professional, making him eligible for workers' compensation benefits. In this action, Claimant argued that he was entitled to benefits after March 30, 2021, the date that he no longer had a diagnosis of PTSD, because he remained disabled from a mental illness. The compensation court awarded benefits from April 1, 2020 into the present. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that Claimant was not entitled to benefits after March 30, 2021. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Claimant was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits after March 30, 2021. View "Chrz v. Mower County" on Justia Law
Chinniah v. Fed. Energy Regul. Comm’n
Pro se Plaintiff filed a whistleblower claim against his former employer, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and his former supervisors in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. But before doing so, Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (WPA) and the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. The district court thus dismissed the claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s whistleblower claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff did not file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel or the Merit Systems Protection Board, as required by the CSRA. Instead, he went straight to federal court. The district court thus lacked “jurisdiction to entertain a whistleblower cause of action . . . in the first instance” because Plaintiff failed to follow the proper administrative process. Second, the court wrote that Plaintiff’s argument that his failure to exhaust should be excused on equitable grounds is meritless. The court noted that it has “no authority to create equitable exceptions to jurisdictional requirements.” And, in any event, Plaintiff offers no reason why he should be granted such an equitable exception. View "Chinniah v. Fed. Energy Regul. Comm'n" on Justia Law
Ciraci v. J.M. Smucker Co.
Smucker’s is a federal contractor that supplies food items to the federal government. In 2021, by Executive Order, President Biden directed all federal contractors to “ensure that all [their] employees [were] fully vaccinated for COVID-19,” unless such employees were “legally entitled” to health or religious accommodations. The order made contractors “responsible for considering, and dispositioning, such requests for accommodations.” In September 2021, Smucker’s notified its U.S. employees that it would “ask and expect” them to “be fully vaccinated.” A month later, in the face of “deadlines in the federal order,” Smucker’s announced a formal vaccine mandate with exemptions based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”The plaintiffs unsuccessfully sought religious exemptions, then sued Smucker's under the First Amendment's free-exercise guarantee. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. When Smucker’s denied the exemption requests, it was not a state actor. Smucker’s does not perform a traditional, exclusive public function; it has not acted jointly with the government or entwined itself with it; and the government did not compel it to deny anyone an exemption. That Smucker’s acted in compliance with federal law and that Smucker’s served as a federal contractor, do not by themselves make the company a government actor. View "Ciraci v. J.M. Smucker Co." on Justia Law
Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association v. Kiran Ahuja
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers retirement benefits for civilian employees of the U.S. government. OPM typically pays retirement benefits to retirees themselves. But when a retiree’s benefits are subject to division pursuant to a divorce decree, OPM divides them between the retiree and his or her former spouse according to the terms of the decree. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (Association) brought this action against OPM in district court, claiming that OPM’s method of apportioning one type of retirement benefit, the Annuity Supplement, violates the Administrative Procedure Act. OPM moved to dismiss the complaint on jurisdictional grounds. The district court acknowledged that federal employees’ claims for retirement benefits are generally routed through that system of review, but held that the Association’s claims fell within an exception allowing pre-enforcement challenges to agency rules to proceed in district court. Exercising jurisdiction, the district court dismissed one of the Association’s counts for failure to state a legally cognizable claim and, after the administrative record was filed, granted summary judgment to OPM as to the others. The DC Circuit vacated the district court’s orders and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The court held that the CSRA’s system of review—which channels disputes about FERS retirement benefits through an administrative process, subject to direct review in the Federal Circuit—precludes district court review of the Association’s claims. View "Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association v. Kiran Ahuja" on Justia Law
Castellanos v. State of California
In November 2020, the voters approved Proposition 22, Bus. & Prof. Code, 7448–7467. Proposition 22 concerns drivers that operate transportation or delivery services using an electronic application or platform to connect passengers seeking transportation or customers seeking delivery of goods to drivers or couriers willing to provide those services with their personal vehicles. The Attorney General titled it: “Exempts App-Based Transportation and Delivery Companies from Providing Employee Benefits to Certain Drivers.” The plaintiffs sought a declaration that Proposition 22 violated the California Constitution.The trial court granted the petition, ruling that the proposition is invalid in its entirety because it intrudes on the Legislature’s exclusive authority to create workers’ compensation laws; is invalid to the extent that it limits the Legislature’s authority to enact legislation that would not constitute an amendment to Proposition 22, and is invalid in its entirety because it violates the single-subject rule for initiative statutes.The court of appeal affirmed in part and found that the unconstitutional provisions are severable. Proposition 22 does not intrude on the Legislature’s workers’ compensation authority or violate the single-subject rule, but the initiative’s definition of what constitutes an amendment violates separation of powers principles. View "Castellanos v. State of California" on Justia Law
Garcia-Brower v. Nor-Cal Venture Group
During an investigation into possible violations of California overtime laws by appellant Nor-Cal Venture Group, Inc. (Nor-Cal), respondent Labor Commissioner for the State of California (Commissioner) subpoenaed Nor-Cal's business records. The Commissioner ultimately issued a wage citation to Nor-Cal, seeking over $900,000 in penalties and unpaid wages for alleged misclassification of about 40 restaurant managers. Nor-Cal challenged the wage citation in an “informal” adjudicatory hearing, and while that adjudication was pending, Commissioner issued a subpoena directing Nor-Cal’s “Person(s) Most Knowledgeable” on certain topics to testify at a deposition. When Nor-Cal refused, Commissioner filed a petition to a trial court to compel Nor-Cal to comply. The trial court agreed with Commissioner and ordered Nor-Cal to comply with the deposition subpoena. On appeal, Nor-Cal challenged the trial court’s order, arguing: (1) the California Government Code did not contemplate parties to adjudicatory informal hearings taking depositions for the purpose of discovery; and (2) because, under the trial court’s reasoning, only Commissioner could issue deposition subpoenas during the pendency of an informal adjudication, the trial court’s order permitting non-reciprocal discovery violated due process. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order, finding that while Commissioner had broad power to issue investigative subpoenas to a company for suspected violations of the law, "that broad power ends upon initiation of adjudicative proceedings against the company." View "Garcia-Brower v. Nor-Cal Venture Group" on Justia Law