Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Ascolese, a compliance officer, brought a False Claims Act (FCA) retaliation claim against his former employer, MBP, in connection with a qui tam action involving a federally-funded public housing construction project for the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA). In 2009–2010, Congress amended the FCA, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A), to expand the scope of protected conduct shielded from retaliation and the type of notice an employer must have of the protected conduct. The new standard is whether Ascolese showed he engaged in protected conduct in furtherance of an FCA action or other efforts to stop or more violations of the FCA and that he was discriminated against because of his protected conduct. The court believed that the pre-amendment standard was required by the Third Circuit, and concluded that Ascolese failed to show MBP was on notice that he was attempting to stop MBP from violating the FCA and not merely doing his job.The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. The right question is whether Ascolese pled facts that plausibly showed MBP was on notice he tried to stop MBP’s alleged FCA violation. Ascolese sufficiently pled that he engaged in protected conduct when he went outside of his chain of command to report his concerns of fraudulent work to the PHA. View "Ascolese v. Shoemaker Construction Co" on Justia Law

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From December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019, the federal government partially shut down because of a lapse in appropriations. Plaintiffs continued to work as “excepted employees” who work on “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property” and whom the government can “require[] to perform work during a covered lapse in appropriations,” 31 U.S.C. 1341(c)(2), 1342. During the shutdown, the government was barred from paying wages to excepted employees by the Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits the government from “authoriz[ing] an expenditure or obligation exceeding an amount available in an appropriation or fund for the expenditure or obligation.” The government paid their accrued wages after the shutdown ended. Plaintiffs sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for failure “to timely pay their earned overtime and regular wages,” 29 U.S.C. 260; any employer who does not timely pay minimum or overtime wages is liable for liquidated damages equal to the amount of the untimely paid wages. The Claims Court has the discretion to award no liquidated damages if the employer shows “reasonable grounds for believing that [the] act was not a violation of the Act.”The Federal Circuit ordered the dismissal of the case. As a matter of law, the government does not violate the FLSA when it pays excepted employees for work performed during a government shutdown at the earliest date possible after a lapse in appropriations ends, View "Avalos v. United States" on Justia Law

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From December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019, the government partially shut down because of a lapse in appropriations. Border Patrol Agents continued to work as “excepted employees” who work on “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property” and whom the government can “require[] to perform work during a covered lapse in appropriations,” 31 U.S.C. 1341(c)(2), 1342. During the shutdown, the government was barred from paying wages to excepted employees by the Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits the government from “authoriz[ing] an expenditure or obligation exceeding an amount available in an appropriation or fund for the expenditure or obligation.” The government paid their accrued wages after the shutdown ended. The agents sued, alleging that the government violated the Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act (BPAPRA), 5 U.S.C. 5550, by not paying their wages on their regularly scheduled payday” for work they performed during the shutdown and that the late payments were unjustified personnel actions under the Back Pay Act, section 5596(b)); they sought interest and attorney fees.The Federal Circuit ordered the dismissal of the case. The government does not violate any implicit timely payment obligation in the BPAPRA and Back Pay Act when, as required by the Anti-Deficiency Act, it defers payments to excepted employees until after a lapse in appropriations ends. View "Abrantes v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus sought by Walmart, Inc. ordering the Industrial Commission of Ohio to reverse its decision awarding Dianna Hixson temporary total disability (TTD) compensation on the basis of State ex rel. Klein v. Precision Excavating & Grading Co., 119 N.E.3d 386 (Ohio 2018), holding that Klein applies prospectively only.Before the Supreme Court issued Klein, the Commission awarded Hixson TTD compensation. After Klein was released, Walmart, Hixson's former employer, filed this action seeking a writ of mandamus ordering the termination of Hixson's TTD compensation after the date notified Walmart of her retirement. The court of appeals granted the writ, concluding that the Commission abused its discretion by awarding TTD compensation for the period following Hixson's retirement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Klein does not apply retroactively and should be applied prospectively only. View "State ex rel. Walmart, Inc. v. Hixson" on Justia Law

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In this original action involving a dispute between Relator, Lake County Clerk of Courts Faith Andrews, and Respondents, the seven judges of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, the Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition vacating Respondents' May 2022 journal entry and prohibiting the judges from imposing similar restrictions against Relator without jurisdiction, holding that Relator was entitled to the writ.Relator's alleged misconduct within the clerk's office led Respondents to issue a journey entry in May 2022 that banned Relator from entering the Lake County courthouse except for one day per month. Relator brought this action seeking writs of prohibition, mandamus, or quo warrant to prevent the judges from interfering with her execution of her duties at the courthouse, where the clerk's office was located. The Supreme Court issued a writ of prohibition vacating Respondents' journal entry, issued a writ of mandamus ordering Respondents to vacate the May 2022 entry, and denied as moot Relator's request for a writ of quo warranto, holding that Respondents effectively removed Relator from her office without jurisdiction to do so. View "State ex rel. Andrews v. Lake County Court of Common Pleas" on Justia Law

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Deborah Dorr requested to reopen an unemployment appeal hearing that was to address Dorr’s appeal of the Idaho Department of Labor’s (“IDOL”) decision denying Dorr’s request to backdate her Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claim. After Dorr failed to appear at the hearing, IDOL dismissed her appeal and subsequently denied her request to reopen the hearing. Dorr appealed IDOL’s denial of her request to reopen, and the Idaho Industrial Commission (“the Commission”) affirmed. The Commission determined due process was satisfied and agreed with IDOL that Dorr’s own negligence was insufficient cause to reopen the hearing. Appealing pro se, Dorr petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court for relief. The Supreme Court concluded Dorr’s briefing did not meet the standard for an appeal under Idaho Appellate Rule 35(a)(6) and as such, her arguments were forfeited. The Commission’s decision upholding the Appeal Examiner’s denial of Dorr’s request to reopen her appeal hearing was affirmed. View "Dorr v. IDOL" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals granting a writ of mandamus ordering the Industrial Commission of Ohio to reverse its decision awarding Appellant temporary-total-disability (TTD) compensation after sustaining a work injury, holding that the Commission's order was neither unsupported by evidence in the record nor was it contrary to law.Appellant gave Appellee two weeks' notice of her intention to resign and subsequently sustained a work injury. The Commission awarded Appellant TTD compensation. The court of appeals granted a writ ordering the Commission to reverse its decision because Appellant had resigned from her employment prior to her injury. Relying on the Supreme Court's opinion in State ex rel. Klein v. Precision Excavating & Grading Co., 119 N.E.3d 386 (Ohio 2018), the court of appeals granted the writ. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the decision in Klein did not redefine voluntary abandonment of the workforce as voluntary abandonment of the injured worker's position; and (2) the Commission did not abuse its discretion in determining that, but for her work injury, Appellant would have remained gainfully employed. View "State ex rel. Ohio State University v. Pratt" on Justia Law

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McIntosh, employed by the Department of Defense, was responsible for approving travel expenses for government contracts. McIntosh, on several occasions refused to approve invoices and refused to provide contract information to her coworkers. Her supervisor, Boswell, informed McIntosh that her actions amounted to a “refus[al] to perform [her] job requirements.” McIntosh filed grievances, alleging that she was being forced to disclose unauthorized information and was harassed. The agency investigated and denied McIntosh’s grievances. McIntosh took sick leave for the day of her scheduled performance review, before Boswell’s retirement. Boswell requested medical documentation. McIntosh returned to work after Boswell retired. Cohen became her supervisor. Upon her return, McIntosh submitted a letter from her doctor, stating that she “should be excused from work due to illness from 3/22/2017 through 3/24/2017.” Employee Relation determined that the documentation was not acceptable. McIntosh never provided additional documentation but reiterated her grievances and requested reassignment. She declined to speak to Cohen and went home. Cohen placed McIntosh on paid leave and issued a Notice of Proposed Removal. The deciding official, Van Winkle, sustained the removal.The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed, finding that the Department would have removed McIntosh even absent her protected whistleblowing activity. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the Board’s administrative judges are improperly appointed principal officers under the Appointments Clause and that substantial evidence did not support the Board’s decision. View "McIntosh v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law

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Abbey Dickerson appealed to the Judicial Department Personnel Board of Review (“Board”) after she was terminated by the Eighteenth Judicial District (“District”). As required by the Personnel Rules, the Board appointed an attorney (who happened to be a retired court of appeals judge) to serve as the hearing officer on her case. Following an evidentiary hearing, the hearing officer changed the disciplinary action to a ninety-day suspension without pay. The District then appealed to the Board, but the Board affirmed the hearing officer’s decision. Because the District remained concerned about Dickerson’s suitability to return to her position, however, it sought review of the Board’s final order by filing a C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) claim in Denver district court. The question presented by this case for the Colorado Supreme Court asked whether the Board was either a “governmental body” or a “lower judicial body” within the meaning of C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4), such that its decision to affirm, modify, or reverse a disciplinary action could be challenged in district court. The Supreme Court held that the Personnel Rules precluded district court review of a final order by the Board. View "Colorado Judicial Dept. 18th Judicial District" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Andrew Shouse was terminated from his employment as a captain of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO, the Department, or respondent), following an administrative hearing. Findings on the record reflected petitioner engaged in improper sexual relationships with subordinates under his command, misappropriated county equipment and electronic mail for his personal use, was insubordinate in violating a direct order prohibiting him from contacting any person with whom he had had a personal relationship during the pendency of the investigation, and unbecoming conduct discrediting the Sheriff’s Department. Following an administrative appeal, the findings were sustained. Petitioner petitioned for writ of mandate seeking review of his dismissal, and, upon denial of that petition, he appealed. The sole legal issue presented was whether petitioner’s rights pursuant to the Public Safety Officer’s Bill of Rights (POBRA) were violated where the investigation into his alleged improper conduct was not completed within one year of discovery. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Shouse v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law