Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Plaintiff worked as a security officer at the Center for Behavioral Medicine (CBM). Plaintiff sued CBM, alleging a racially hostile environment, disparate treatment based on race, retaliation, and constructive discharge in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court granted summary judgment to CBM.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that while Plaintiff argued that his retaliation claims are like or related to the substance of his EEOC charge, he doesn’t address how they are related, thus the court considered the argument waived. Further, the court wrote that Plaintiff’s argument fails on the merits too. Plaintiff testified to three occasions he considered retaliation by HR, all of which occurred in mid-to-late 2019. But the charge’s only references to HR’s actions were about the finding that Plaintiff’s August 2018 grievance was unsubstantiated and HR’s failure to provide a grievance or complaint form when Plaintiff asked for one. Plaintiff never claimed that either action was retaliatory.   Further, the court found that Plaintiff has not exhausted his constructive discharge claim either. Here, Plaintiff’s charge gave no indication that he was about to be constructively discharged, and Plaintiff did not resign from CBM until approximately five months after he filed his charge. View "Anthony Slayden v. Center for Behavioral Medicine" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued St. Luke’s pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. Plaintiff alleged that St. Luke’s: discriminated against him on the basis of his disability, gender, and race; failed to accommodate him; and retaliated against him. St. Luke’s sought summary judgment on all issues, and the district court granted St. Luke’s motion. Plaintiff appealed the district court’s ruling regarding only his claims of disability discrimination under the MHRA and failure to accommodate under the ADA and the MHRA.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the record demonstrates several steps that St. Luke’s took in response to Plaintiff’s request for accommodation. Thus, because there is no triable issue as to whether St. Luke’s acted in good faith, the court wrote it need not reach the final step of the analysis, which is whether St. Luke’s could have reasonably accommodated Plaintiff. Accordingly, the court affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim. Likewise, in opposing St. Luke’s motion for summary judgment before the district court, Plaintiff failed to argue his constructive discharge claim. View "Joseph Mobley v. St. Luke's Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was dismissed from her role as a Cadre On-Call Response Employee (CORE) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2017. Plaintiff claimed that her dismissal resulted from race-based discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following administrative proceedings in which an administrative law judge rejected her complaint, Plaintiff filed suit in federal district court. Plaintiff appealed the district court’s order granting FEMA summary judgment and denying her motion for additional time to conduct discovery, arguing that the court abused its discretion by declining to grant a continuance under Rule 56(d) as required by Chandler v. Roudebush.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that because Plaintiff failed to diligently pursue her limited discovery needs during the two-month continuance, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying her Rule 56(d) motion. Further, Chandler cannot be construed as demanding further discovery where, as here, the government acquiesces, but the employee fails to diligently pursue it. Plaintiff received a de novo trial and treatment equal to that afforded to a private-sector employee. The district court did not contravene Chandler by denying further discovery and granting the summary judgment motion. View "Dominick v. DHS" on Justia Law

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La Vonya Price worked intermittently as a part-time substitute special education aide at the Victor Valley Unified School District (the District) before applying for a full-time position. She received an offer for a full-time position that was contingent on passing a physical exam. When she failed the physical exam for not being “medically suitable for the position,” the District rescinded the offer, terminated her as a substitute, and disqualified her from any future employment with the District. Price sued the District for retaliation and various disability-related claims, but the trial court granted summary judgment to the District. Price appealed, contending the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment to the District because there were triable issues of fact concerning all of her claims. The Court of Appeal agreed as to her first claim for disability discrimination, but disagreed as to the rest of her claims. View "Price v. Victor Valley Union High School Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Brandon Fresquez filed suit against his former employer, defendant BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), claiming that BNSF violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) by terminating his employment in retaliation for him engaging in certain activities that were expressly protected under the FRSA. A jury found in favor of Fresquez on his claim of retaliation under the FRSA, and awarded him $800,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages. Following the trial, Fresquez moved for an award of back and front pay. The district court granted that motion in part and awarded Fresquez a total of $696,173. BNSF argued on appeal: (1) it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the merits of Fresquez’s claims; (2) alternatively, it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of punitive damages. BNSF further argues that it was entitled to a new trial on the merits of Fresquez’s claims based on the district court’s admission of character and other prejudicial evidence; (3) it was entitled to a new trial on the issue of compensatory damages; and (4) the district court abused its discretion by awarding Fresquez ten years’ worth of front pay. Rejecting these arguments, the Tenth Circuit found no reversible error and affirmed judgment. View "Fresquez v. BNSF Railway" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jane Doe was the founder and owner of a company called House of Lync, which was purchased by defendant SoftwareONE Inc. As part of the acquisition, plaintiff was offered a position with defendant as “Head Solutions Sales, Skype for Business,” which she accepted. At the time, plaintiff was 49 years old. Nine months later, defendant hosted a “National Sales Kick-off” event in Cancun, Mexico. Plaintiff attended, and felt the event was “full of outlandish behavior.” Plaintiff refused to participate, and later complained to the president of defendant’s American division. Beginning shortly after the event, defendant received complaints about plaintiff, including her “demeaning manner, withholding of important information, bullying, humiliation, and other unacceptable behaviors.” Defendant reassigned plaintiff to a new position: “Global Alliances and Practice Development Leader, Skype for Business.” About six months after plaintiff’s reassignment, Jason Cochran, defendant’s director of technical solutions told plaintiff, during an after-work event, that defendant “is a guy’s club,” plaintiff was “never going to make it” working for defendant, and called plaintiff a “bitch.” After plaintiff complained, defendant’s human resources manager investigated, “coached” Cochran, and informed plaintiff that defendant did not condone this behavior. A few months later, defendant purchased another company similar to plaintiff’s. Defendant then terminated plaintiff, citing poor performance and redundancy. Plaintiff sued defendant, alleging her firing was discriminatory and retaliatory. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing: (1) plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case for discrimination or retaliation; (2) defendant had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating plaintiff; and (3) plaintiff could not show defendant’s nondiscriminatory reasons were pretextual. The trial court granted defendant’s motion and entered judgment for defendant. In moving for a new trial, plaintiff argued, among other things, that even absent evidence of pretext, her claims could and should have survived summary judgment because she made a sufficient showing of retaliatory intent. The trial court agreed and granted plaintiff’s motion. Defendant timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision overturning summary judgment. View "Doe v. Software One" on Justia Law

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The Cincinnati Citizen Complaint Authority investigates alleged police misconduct and usually interviews the relevant officers, complainants, and other witnesses. Officers are required to participate in such investigations. An officer may bring a union representative to the interview. The Authority video records the interviews. Sergeant Hils, the President of the Union, claims that Authority Investigator Ekeke, in recording an officer’s interview, selectively turned off the recording when the officer made exculpatory statements. Another time, he alleges, Ekeke “threatened” an officer before the interview. Hils tried to record an interview of Officer Knapp, whom he represented. The Authority instituted a policy, prohibiting officers or their representatives from recording the interviews.Hils and affected officers sued, alleging violations of their free-speech rights, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The union filed an unfair labor practices charge, which led to a partial settlement agreement. The city agreed to record all future interviews. The district court held that the settlement agreement mooted the selective-recording claims and that the First Amendment does not include a right to record a government investigation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The policy satisfies rational-basis review. The Authority has legitimate interests in maintaining order and fairness during its interviews by ensuring the ongoing interviews are not selectively broadcasted, by ensuring the integrity of the investigation, by protecting the subjects of the investigation from unfair and precipitous public criticism, and by trying to prevent other subjects of the investigation from hearing prior interviews. View "Hils v. Davis" 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Clay County Development Corporation (CCDC) in regard to Petitioners' claims of discrimination in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act, W. Va. Code 5-11-2 and -9, and breach of an implied employment contract, holding that the circuit court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) as used in the Act, ancestry means discrimination based on some characteristic like race, ethnicity, or national origin that is passed down by lineal descendants, and in the context of employment, familial status is not included among the groups entitled to protection under the Act; and (2) the circuit court did not err in its finding that Plaintiffs were at-will employees and as such could be terminated for any non-discriminatory reason. View "Keener v. Clay County Development Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought Title VII and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) claims against the U.S. Attorney General because she failed an allegedly discriminatory physical-fitness test that was a condition of her federal employment and was told to either retake the test, resign, or be fired. She resigned. The district court dismissed her complaint for lack of Article III standing, finding that her resignation did not constitute an “adverse employment action” that could serve as the basis of either claim.   The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal and remand for further proceedings. The court held that the district court inappropriately intertwined its standing analysis with the merits. Plaintiff alleged that she suffered financial and job-related injuries in fact that are fairly traceable to the government’s action and likely to be redressed by a favorable ruling. View "Jane DiCocco v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law