Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
TODD ASHKER, ET AL V. GAVIN NEWSOM, ET AL
A settlement agreement generally ends a legal dispute. Here, it was just the beginning. In August 2015, the State of California settled a dispute with a plaintiff class of inmates over alleged constitutional violations. Eight years later, the dispute continues. In settlement, the State agreed to stop housing inmates in solitary confinement for long-term or indefinite periods based on gang affiliation. The inmates’ counsel would monitor the state’s compliance for two years. The settlement agreement and monitoring period could be extended for twelve months if the inmates demonstrated continuing constitutional violations that were either alleged in their complaint or resulted from the agreement’s reforms. The twice successfully extended the settlement agreement before the district court. The Ninth Circuit reversed in part, vacated in part, and dismissed in part the district court’s extensions of the settlement agreement. The panel reversed the district court’s order granting the first twelve-month extension of the settlement agreement. First, the panel held that there was no basis for extending the agreement based on the inmates’ claim that the CDCR regularly mischaracterizes the confidential information used in disciplinary hearings and fails to verify the reliability of that information. Next, the panel held that there was no basis for extending the agreement based on the inmates’ claim that CDCR unconstitutionally validates inmates as gang affiliates and fails to tell the parole board that old gang validations are flawed or unreliable. The claim was not included in, or sufficiently related to, the complaint. View "TODD ASHKER, ET AL V. GAVIN NEWSOM, ET AL" on Justia Law
Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group
The Supreme Court held that an employer's business entity agents can be held directly liable under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code 12900 et seq., for employment discrimination in appropriate circumstances when the business entity agent has at least five employees and carries out activities regulated by FEHA on behalf of an employer.Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and an alleged class, brought this action alleging claims under the FEHA, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, unfair competition law, and the common law right of privacy. Plaintiffs named as a defendant U.S. Healthworks Medical Group (USHW), who was acting as an agent of Plaintiffs' prospective employers. The district court dismissed all claims, concluding, as relevant to this appeal, that the FEHA does not impose liability on the agents of a plaintiff's employer. The federal district court of appeals certified a question of law to the Supreme Court, which answered that FEHA permits a business entity acting as an agent of an employer to be held directly liable as an employer for employment discrimination, in violation of FEHA, when the business entity has at least five employees and carries out FEHA-regulated activities on behalf of an employer. View "Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group" on Justia Law
Torri Houston v. St. Luke’s Health System, Inc.
Plaintiff, a former employee, sued on behalf of herself and similarly situated employees, claiming that St. Luke’s violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA”) overtime provisions by failing to fully compensate employees for work performed. She also brought an unjust-enrichment claim under state law. The district court certified two classes with different lookback periods: (1) an FLSA collective comprised of employees who worked for St. Luke’s between September 2016 and September 2018, 1 and (2) an unjust-enrichment class comprised of all employees who worked for St. Luke’s in Missouri between April 2012 and September 2018. Houston also asserted individual claims, one under the Missouri Minimum Wage Law, and one for breach of her employment contract. The district court granted summary judgment to St. Luke’s on all claims. The Eighth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court explained that Plaintiff has raised a genuine dispute that the rounding policy does not average out over time. The court explained that no matter how one slices the data, most employees and the employees as a whole fared worse under the rounding policy than had they been paid according to their exact time worked. Here, the rounding policy did both. It resulted in lost time for nearly two-thirds of employees, and those employees lost more time than was gained by their coworkers who benefited from rounding. The court concluded that the employees have raised a genuine dispute that the rounding policy, as applied, did not average out over time. The district court, therefore, erred in granting summary judgment on the FLSA and Missouri wage claims. View "Torri Houston v. St. Luke's Health System, Inc." on Justia Law
Isaac Harris v. Medical Transportation Management, Inc.
Appellees worked as non-emergency medical transportation drivers. In July 2017, they brought a putative class action and Fair Labor Standards Act collective action against Medical Transportation Management, Inc. (“MTM”). Their complaint alleged that MTM is their employer and had failed to pay them and its other drivers their full wages as required by both federal and District of Columbia law. MTM appealed the district court’s certification of an “issue class” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(c)(4) and its denial of MTM’s motion to decertify plaintiffs’ Fair Labor Standards Act collective action. The DC Circuit remanded the district court’s certification of the issue class because the court failed to ensure that it satisfies the class-action criteria specified in Rules 23(a) and (b). The court declined to exercise pendent appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s separate decision on the Fair Labor Standards Act collective action. The court explained that because the resolution of the action will bind absent class members, basic principles of due process require that they be notified that their individual claims are being resolved and that they may opt out of the action if they so choose. So if the district court certifies the issue class under Rule 23(b)(3) on remand, it must direct “the best notice that is practicable” as part of any certification order. View "Isaac Harris v. Medical Transportation Management, Inc." on Justia Law
Kevin Karsjens v. Jodi Harpstead
This case was brought by a class of sex offenders (Appellants) civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) pursuant to the Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment Act: Sexually Dangerous Persons and Sexual Psychopathic Personalities, codified at Minnesota Statute Section 253D (MCTA). Appellants filed this action against various MSOP managers and officials, as well as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (collectively, Appellees). On remand after a second appeal to this Court, the district court granted judgment in favor of Appellees on all of Appellants’ claims. Appellants appeal, challenging the district court’s judgment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Appellants contend that the district court erred by declining to address their treatment-related claims, alleging that the district court found them to be duplicative of previously decided counts. The court wrote that in making this finding, the district court did not dismiss or otherwise ignore any of the counts before it, which were all conditions-of-confinement and inadequate medical care claims. While Appellants attempted to “reanimate” these claims in a Fourth Amended Complaint, the district court denied the amendment, and Appellants do not challenge that decision on appeal. Accordingly, the court perceived no error in the district court’s treatment of Appellants’ treatment-related claims. Appellants additionally attacked the district court’s conclusion that the MSOP’s Behavioral Expectation Report policy is constitutional. But Appellants focused only on the impact of the policy on their treatment and fail to address the other legitimate government objectives it addresses—such as preserving institutional order at the MSOP. View "Kevin Karsjens v. Jodi Harpstead" on Justia Law
Loy v. Rehab Synergies
Plaintiff brought a Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) suit against Rehab Synergies alleging violations of the federal overtime law. The district court, over Rehab Synergies’ objection, allowed the case to proceed as a collective action and a jury found Rehab Synergies liable. On appeal, Rehab Synergies contends that the district court abused its discretion by allowing the case to proceed as a collective action. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court applied the correct legal standards and that its factual findings were not clearly erroneous. The court explained that Plaintiffs’ adverse-inference argument does not suggest a “disparity” as a result of the case proceeding as a collective action; rather, the record shows that any “disparity” had other causes. Because the Plaintiffs were similarly situated, it would have been inconsistent with the FLSA to require 22 separate trials absent countervailing due process concerns that are simply not present here. View "Loy v. Rehab Synergies" on Justia Law
Lee Williams v. Tech Mahindra Americas Inc
Appellant, a fired employee, sued his former employer, alleging a pattern or practice of race discrimination against non-South Asians in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. The employee had previously attempted to join another class action against the company, but after that case was stayed, he filed this suit – years after his termination. The employer moved to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) as untimely. In response, the employee conceded that the relevant statutes of limitations had expired, and instead, he resorted to two forms of tolling: wrong-forum and American Pipe. The district court concluded that American Pipe tolling did not allow the employee to commence a successive class action, and the employee does not contest that ruling. But the district court dismissed the complaint without considering the applicability of wrong-forum tolling. The Third Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded the case for the district court to consider whether wrong-forum tolling applies and/or whether Appellant has plausibly pleaded a prima facie pattern-or-practice claim. The court explained a class plaintiff’s burden in making out a prima facie case of discrimination is different from that of an individual plaintiff “in that the former need not initially show discrimination against any particular present or prospective employee,” including himself. As a result, Appellant was not required to plead but for causation on an individual basis to avoid dismissal, given the availability of the pattern-or-practice method of proof at later stages of the case. View "Lee Williams v. Tech Mahindra Americas Inc" on Justia Law
Anthony Wright v. Waste Pro USA Inc, et al.
Plaintiff sued his former employer for allegedly underpaying him for overtime hours. Plaintiff worked in Florida, but he sued Waste Pro USA, Inc., and its subsidiary, Waste Pro of Florida, Inc., as one of several named plaintiffs in a purported collective action in the District of South Carolina. That court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Waste Pro USA and Waste Pro of Florida for lack of personal jurisdiction, and it denied as moot his motion to sever his claims and transfer them to a district court in Florida. Instead of appealing or seeking other relief in the South Carolina court, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Southern District of Florida, alleging the same claims. The Florida district court granted summary judgment in favor of Waste Pro USA and Waste Pro of Florida because it determined that Plaintiff’s complaint was untimely. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff had “alternate ways of preserving his cause of action short of invoking the doctrine of equitable tolling.” He could have filed a motion for reconsideration of or for relief from the dismissal order and argued that transfer was in the interest of justice. He also could have appealed the dismissal. “The right to appeal generally is regarded as an adequate legal remedy [that] forecloses equitable relief.” The court wrote that a diligent plaintiff would have filed a protective action or pursued a legal remedy in the South Carolina proceeding. Further, to the extent Plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if equitable tolling does not apply in this case, that is the consequence of his own failure to pursue his remedies at law. Equity will not intervene in such circumstances. View "Anthony Wright v. Waste Pro USA Inc, et al." on Justia Law
Roberts v. Genting
On January 6, 2014, Defendant Genting New York LLC, d/b/a Resorts World Casino New York City ("Genting"), closed the Aqueduct Buffet (the "Buffet"), a restaurant located inside the Resorts World Casino (the "Casino") where Plaintiffs worked. Genting gave Plaintiffs no notice of the closure, which took effect the same day and resulted in 177 employees being laid off. The next week, Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Genting, alleging that its failure to provide notice violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (the "WARN Act"), and New York Labor Law Section 860 et seq. (the "New York WARN Act"). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court denied Plaintiffs' motion and granted Genting's. On appeal, Plaintiffs argue that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Genting because, they claim, a reasonable jury could only conclude that the Buffet was either an operating unit or a single site of employment under the WARN Acts. The Second Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court explained that Genting is not entitled to summary judgment because a reasonable finder of fact could conclude that the Buffet was an operating unit. Likewise, there is also evidence in the record to support the conclusion that the Buffet was not an operating unit. It will be for the finder of fact at trial to weigh the evidence comprising the "somewhat mixed" record in this case to answer the question. The court concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Genting and in dismissing Plaintiffs' claims under the WARN Acts. View "Roberts v. Genting" on Justia Law
Treva Thompson, et al. v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama, et al.
Greater Birmingham Ministries (“GBM”), an Alabamian non-profit organization dedicated to aiding low-income individuals, and several Alabamian felons (collectively “Appellants”) appealed the district court’s summary judgment denying their Equal Protection Clause challenge to Amendment 579 of the Alabama state constitution, their Ex Post Facto Clause, challenge to Amendment 579’s disenfranchisement provisions, and their National Voting Registration Act of 1993 (“NVRA”), challenge to the format of Alabama’s mail voting registration form.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that (1) Amendment 579 successfully dissipated any taint from the racially discriminatory motives behind the 1901 Alabama constitution; (2) Amendment 579 does not impose punishment for purposes of the Ex Post Facto Clause; and (3) Alabama’s mail voting registration form complies with the NVRA. The court wrote that it rejects Appellants’ invitation to review the extent the Alabama legislature debated the “moral turpitude” language of Amendment 579. Further, the court explained that Section 20508(b)(2)(A) is a notice statute enacted for the convenience of voting registrants. Alabama’s mail-in voting form has provided sufficient notice by informing registrants that persons convicted of disqualifying felonies are not eligible to vote and providing an easily accessible link whereby voters convicted of felonies can determine their voter eligibility. Accordingly, Alabama has complied with the requirements of Section 20508(b)(2)(A). View "Treva Thompson, et al. v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama, et al." on Justia Law