Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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In this case, the plaintiff, Jason Lambro, worked as a studio technician for the Voice of America (VOA), a federal agency, under a series of contracts. Lambro alleged that he should have been classified as an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and thus entitled to benefits such as overtime pay. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the FLSA itself, through its definitional provisions, provides the applicable standard for recognizing an employment relationship for FLSA purposes. Therefore, the court had to evaluate whether Lambro was employed by VOA under the FLSA's own standard for being employed. The court rejected the lower court's conclusion that the FLSA does not cover a person asserting coverage as a federal government employee unless a congressional authorization outside the FLSA creates the asserted employment relationship with the federal government. The court vacated the lower court’s dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lambro v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Six, ruled in favor of the Ventura County Employees’ Retirement Association (VCERA) in a dispute over the calculation of retirement benefits for county employees. VCERA had adopted a resolution excluding compensation for accrued but unused annual leave hours exceeding a calendar year allowance from the calculation of retirement benefits, following a Supreme Court decision in a similar case (Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Assn. v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Assn.). VCERA sought a judicial declaration that its resolution was legal, which was granted by the trial court. The Criminal Justice Attorneys Association of Ventura and Ventura County Professional Peace Officers’ Association appealed this decision, arguing that the resolution was not mandated by the Supreme Court decision or the relevant statutes. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision, concluding that VCERA was required to comply with the Supreme Court decision and the relevant statutes, which were designed to prevent pension spiking by excluding income designed to artificially inflate a pension benefit. View "Ventura County Employees' Retirement Association v. Criminal Justice Attorneys Association of Ventura County" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was asked to review a decision from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB had determined that T-Mobile had unlawfully dominated an organization it created known as T-Voice, which the NLRB classified as a "labor organization" under the National Labor Relations Act. The issue arose when T-Mobile, a national wireless telecommunications carrier, established T-Voice and selected employees to serve as representatives to raise issues with management. The Communications Workers of America filed an unfair labor practice charge against T-Mobile, alleging that T-Voice was a labor organization and that T-Mobile had unlawfully dominated it.In its decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the NLRB's determination. The court held that the NLRB was correct in finding that T-Voice was a labor organization because the organization existed at least in part to deal with T-Mobile over working conditions, which is a key criterion for qualifying as a labor organization under federal law. The court further affirmed the NLRB's finding that T-Mobile had dominated T-Voice, which is prohibited by federal law. Consequently, the court denied T-Mobile's petition for review and granted the NLRB's cross-application for enforcement of its order. View "T-Mobile USA, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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In this case, the California School Employees Association (CSEA) filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board (Board or PERB) alleging that the Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) violated Government Code section 3543.5, subdivision (a), by terminating an employee in retaliation for her union activities. The employee was a secretary and local union chapter president. The Board found in favor of the employee, concluding that her status as a union officer was protected activity under the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA), and that VUSD had retaliated against her for her union activity. VUSD appealed this decision.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fifth Appellate District, held that holding a union office is protected activity under the EERA. The court also concluded that the Board correctly found an inference that VUSD had retaliated against the employee for her union activity. However, the court disagreed with the Board's conclusion that VUSD failed to prove its affirmative defense, that it would have terminated the employee for poor performance regardless of any protected activity. The court found that the record compelled a finding that VUSD would have justifiably terminated the employee notwithstanding her protected union activity. Therefore, the court granted VUSD's petition and set aside the Board's decision. View "Visalia Unified School Dist. v. Pub. Employment Relations Bd." on Justia Law

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Amy Shumway was employed as a receptionist at Evans Chiropractic in Idaho. Her employment was terminated by Dr. John Hitchcock, one of the owners, for insubordination. Following her termination, Shumway applied for unemployment benefits. Her application was initially approved by an Appeals Examiner from the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL) who found Shumway eligible for benefits despite her termination for insubordination. On appeal by Evans Chiropractic, the Industrial Commission affirmed the decision, but on different grounds. Evans Chiropractic then appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho.In the Supreme Court, Evans Chiropractic argued that Shumway should not be eligible for benefits because her employment was terminated for job-related misconduct, namely her refusal to meet with Dr. Hitchcock for discussions about her behavior at work. The Supreme Court agreed, finding that the Commission erred in its application of the law. The Court noted that the Commission had focused on Shumway's subjective reasons for not meeting with Hitchcock, rather than the employer's expectations. The Court found that Hitchcock directly communicated his expectation for Shumway to meet with him and that her refusal to do so constituted insubordination, which is a form of job-related misconduct. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the Commission’s decision and held that Shumway was ineligible for unemployment benefits as a matter of law. View "Shumway v. IDOL" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of the State of Washington held that detained workers at a privately owned and operated immigration detention center are considered "employees" under Washington's Minimum Wage Act (MWA), and are thus entitled to receive the state's minimum wage for their work. The court rejected arguments from the detention center operator, The GEO Group, that the detained workers should be exempt from the MWA because they resided and slept at their place of employment. The court also disagreed with GEO's claim that the MWA's government-institutions exemption applied to the detainees because the facility was operated under contract with the federal government. The court found the government-institutions exemption only applies to detainees in public, government-run institutions, and not in privately owned and operated facilities. Finally, the court ruled that a damages award to one party (a class of detainees) does not prevent another party (the State of Washington) from seeking equitable relief in the form of an unjust enrichment award. The case stemmed from lawsuits brought by the State and a class of detainees alleging that GEO's practice of paying detainees less than Washington's minimum wage violated the MWA. After a lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, GEO appealed, leading to the certification of questions to the Washington Supreme Court. View "Nwauzor v. The GEO Grp., Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was called upon to determine whether the ascension of an unclassified service employee to a classified service position with higher pay with the same public employer is a promotion under the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) and the Veterans’ Preference Act (VPA). The case arose when Ralph E. Lynn, a classified service employee, and Aaron Novotnak, an unclassified service employee, both veterans, applied for a classified service position with the Department of Corrections (DOC). The Office of Administration (OA) deemed the position a promotion for Lynn and did not apply veterans’ preference, while it deemed the position an appointment for Novotnak and applied veterans’ preference. The DOC selected Novotnak for the position, and Lynn appealed to the State Civil Service Commission.The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that the ascension of an unclassified service employee to a classified service position with higher pay with the same public employer is not a promotion under the CSRA and the VPA, but rather an appointment. Therefore, it is not discriminatory under section 2704 of the CSRA to award a veterans’ preference to an unclassified service employee seeking an appointment but not to a classified service employee seeking a promotion. The court affirmed the order of the Commonwealth Court in part and reversed in part. The court ruled that Lynn was not entitled to veterans’ preference as he was seeking a promotion, not an appointment. However, Lynn will remain in his position due to a separate issue of technical discrimination that was not reviewed by the court. View "Department of Corrections v. Lynn" on Justia Law

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The Zurich American Insurance Company sought a writ of mandate against the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) and the California Insurance Guarantee Association (CIGA), in the Court of Appeal of the State of California. The issue at hand involved the interpretation of Labor Code section 5909, which states that if the WCAB does not act on a party’s petition for reconsideration of a decision by the workers’ compensation judge within 60 days, the petition is “deemed to have been denied.” CIGA filed a petition for reconsideration more than nine months past the filing date. The WCAB justified its late decision on the basis of an “administrative irregularity” that delayed CIGA’s petition. Zurich argued that the petition had already been denied by operation of law under section 5909. The Court of Appeal agreed with Zurich and held that the language and purpose of section 5909 showed a clear legislative intent to terminate the WCAB’s jurisdiction to consider a petition for reconsideration after the 60 days have passed. As a result, decisions on the petition made after that date are void as they exceed the agency’s jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal granted the writ of mandate, directing the WCAB to rescind its order granting CIGA’s petition for reconsideration and dismissing Zurich as a party defendant from the proceeding. View "Zurich Am. Ins. Co. v. Workers' Comp. App. Bd." on Justia Law

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This case is a labor dispute between Palomar Health, a public healthcare district, and unions representing nurses and healthcare workers employed by Palomar Health. In 2021, during negotiations to renew their collective bargaining agreements, union organizers began a leafletting campaign outside Palomar Health’s main hospital and sought to meet with employees inside the hospital. Palomar Health responded by filing a complaint for trespass and unlawful picketing in San Diego Superior Court, seeking to ban the organizers from their facilities. The unions filed an unfair practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), asserting Palomar Health’s attempts to ban their representatives and the civil lawsuit violated the unions’ rights under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act. The trial court overruled the unions’ demurrer and denied their motion to strike, maintaining jurisdiction of the state law claims. On appeal, the unions argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the dispute as their activities were arguably protected by the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act and that jurisdiction fell exclusively under PERB. The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One State of California, agreed with the unions, finding that Palomar Health’s claims were preempted and therefore, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the dispute. The trial court’s order overruling the demurrer was reversed and the matter was remanded with directions to enter an order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend, and to dismiss the case on the grounds that it is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of PERB. View "Palomar Health v. Nat. Nurses United" on Justia Law

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In the case heard by the Supreme Court of the State of Montana, Caryn Miske, the plaintiff and appellant, was appealing a district court decision that granted the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) summary judgment on all of her claims that arose from her termination by the DNRC from the Flathead Basin Commission.The primary facts of the case involve Miske's employment as the Executive Director of the Flathead Basin Commission, a body established by the 1983 Legislature to protect the environment of Flathead Lake and its tributaries. The Commission is administratively attached to the DNRC, a relationship that Miske argued allowed the Commission independent authority over staffing decisions. However, the DNRC contended that the Commission and DNRC share concurrent authority over staffing decisions.The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the DNRC on all of Miske's claims. It held that, based on the plain language and structure of the relevant statutes, the DNRC and the Commission have concurrent authority over staffing decisions, and therefore, Miske was a DNRC employee.The court also ruled that the DNRC didn't commit intentional interference with contractual relations as it wasn't a stranger to Miske's relationship with the Commission. Additionally, the court found that Miske's lobbying efforts on behalf of the Commission were made in her capacity as a DNRC employee and thus were not protected political speech. Lastly, the court held that the DNRC had good cause to terminate Miske due to her repeated failures to provide the DNRC with state-issued credit card statements, which constituted a legitimate business reason for her termination. View "Miske v. DNRC" on Justia Law