Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of this complaint alleging that Puerto Rico's series of laws that affect the relationship between public employees in the Commonwealth and their employers impermissibly interfere with their collective bargaining rights, holding that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.To address Puerto Rico's fiscal criss, the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly passed the four laws challenged in this case affecting the rights and benefits of public sector workers. Two Puerto Rico unions brought this action alleging that these measures violated the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution and the Collective Bargaining Clause of the Puerto Rico Constitution. The district court dismissed the complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. View "Hermandad de Empleados v. Financial Oversight & Management Board" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff's racial discrimination and retaliation claims against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), holding that both challenges were meritless.Plaintiff brought claims of racial discrimination, unlawful retaliation, and negligent infliction of emotional distress against the MBTA. The district court granted summary judgment to the MBTA on all claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff did not produce sufficient evidence to get to a jury on his claim that he was denied a promotion based on his race; and (2) Plaintiff did not establish a prima facie case of retaliation. View "Henderson v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied the petition filed by United Nurses and Allied Professionals (the Union) for review of the decision of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) ruling that lobbying expenses are categorically not chargeable to objecting employees, holding that unions cannot require objectors to contribute toward lobbying costs.Jeanette Geary worked as a nurse at a Rhode Island hospital where the Union was the exclusive bargaining representative. Geary challenged the Union's decision to charge her for some of its 2009 lobbying expenses and to refuse her a letter verifying that its expenses were examined by an independent auditor. The Board ruled in favor of Geary. The First Circuit upheld the decision, holding (1) the Board's decision on the Union's lobbying expenses comported with Supreme Court decisions addressing the changeability of lobbying expenses by public-sector unions; and (2) the Board's determination requiring the Union to provide Geary a letter signed by an auditor verifying that the financial information disclosed to the objectors had been independently audited was reasonable. View "United Nurses & Allied Professional v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court's judgment ordering Council 93, a regional division of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), to reconstitute its executive board "within one year so that there may be proper proportional representation for its constituent locals and members," holding that the district court erred.This case arose out of a dispute between Council 93 and one of its local divisions, Local 402, over the allocation of seats on Council 93's governing executive board. Plaintiffs, members of Local 402, brought this action alleging that the allocation of seats on the executive board violated their right to an equal vote under Title I of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure act of 1959 (LMRDA) and the AFSCME constitution. The district court agreed and ordered Council 93 to reconstitute its executive board. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) any remedy for a violation of the equal rights provision of Title I must be implemented by the Secretary of Labor under the remedial provisions of Title IV of the LMRDA; and (2) Plaintiffs failed to show that the union constitution supported their claims. View "Conille v. Council 93" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Walden Security and dismissing the suit brought by Plaintiffs for statutory separation pay pursuant to Puerto Rico Law 80, holding that Plaintiffs had no remedy pursuant to Law 80.Plaintiffs had served as court security officers for the District of Puerto Rico for thirty-two years when Walden Security assumed the federal contract to provide courthouse security services. Walden refused to hire Plaintiffs because they lacked certification from a law enforcement training academy. Plaintiffs subsequently filed the instant lawsuit for statutory separation pay. The district court granted summary judgment for Walden, reasoning that Law 80 did not apply to Plaintiffs' claims. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the district erred in ignoring the theory of liability that Plaintiff's advanced: Puerto Rico's common law successor employer doctrine. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court misconstrued Plaintiffs' theory of liability; but (2) the successor employer doctrine was clearly inapplicable to Plaintiffs' case. View "Lopez-Santos v. Metropolitan Security Services" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Appellants' motion to compel arbitration in this putative class action, holding that the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA) exemption for "contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" encompasses the contracts of transportation workers who transport goods or people within the flow of interstate commerce.Plaintiff was a delivery driver for Amazon.com, Inc. and its subsidiary, Amazon Logistics, Inc. (collectively, Amazon) who collected packages for delivery in Massachusetts and did not cross state lines during the course of his deliveries. Plaintiff filed this putative class action asserting misclassification of Amazon's drivers contracted with through its smartphone application as independent contractors and violations of Massachusetts labor laws. Amazon moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the mandatory arbitration provision of Plaintiff's employment agreement with Amazon. The district court denied the motion in part, concluding that Plaintiff's agreement was exempt from the FAA and that the provision was unenforceable based on Massachusetts public policy. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the FAA does not govern the enforceability of the dispute resolution section of the agreement; and (2) the district court rightly refused to compel arbitration pursuant to state law. View "Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Novo Nordisk Inc.'s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Thomas Russomano, one of its former employees, and BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Inc., Russomano's current employer, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Novo Nordisk could not show a likelihood of success on the merits.Novo Nordisk sought to enforce the terms of a confidentiality and non-compete agreement that Russomano signed when he was employed at Novo Nordisk. The agreement prohibited Russomano from working for a competitor for one year after the end of his employment at Novo Nordisk and from disclosing confidential information. The district found that Novo Nordisk was not likely to succeed on the merits. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that Novo Nordisk's termination letter was unambiguous that Russomano's employment ended on August 2, 2018. View "Russomano v. Novo Nordisk Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court finding that Plaintiff was disabled as defined under 20 C.F.R. 404.1520 and awarding her benefits, holding that there was very strong evidence of Plaintiff's disability, without any contrary evidence, to justify an award of benefits.At age thirty-four, Plaintiff filed applications for Social Security Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The Commissioner of Social Security denied Plaintiff's applications. In an independent assessment of her claim, an ALJ agreed with the Commissioner's decision, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined under the Social Security Act. A federal magistrate judge found that substantial evidence did not support the ALJ's denial of benefits and recommended reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding the case for further development of the facts. The district court agreed with the magistrate judge's findings but bypassed the need for further fact-finding and awarded benefits. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was overwhelming evidence to support a finding of disability and an award of benefits and that a remand for further proceedings was unnecessary. View "Sacilowski v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff's age discrimination and Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) claims, holding that Plaintiff's OWBPA-compliant waiver and release were knowing and voluntary under federal common law.Plaintiff, a former Winchendon police officer, decided to resign with a pension after the Defendants determined that he had made several threats against his former girlfriend. Plaintiff resigned instead of facing termination and the possibility of losing his pension and being criminally charged. Plaintiff signed a separation agreement agreeing to waive and release any claims he had against Defendants up and through signing the agreement. Plaintiff later brought a complaint alleging age discrimination, retaliation, and defamation, alleging that the waiver and release in his separation agreement violated the OWBPA and were thus invalid. The district court granted summary judgment on the age discrimination and OWBPA claims for Defendants, and a jury found for Defendants on the retaliation and defamation claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, holding (1) the waiver and release did not violate the OWBPA and were knowing and voluntary; and (2) Defendant's argument that the district court abused its discretion in withdrawing an exhibit at trial was meritless. View "Geoffroy v. Town of Winchendon" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff's claim under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, holding that Defendant put forward a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment.Plaintiff was let go from his position after a new, consolidated position went to another employee and because Plaintiff's performance ratings had declined over time. Plaintiff brought an age discrimination claim under the ADEA and under analogous Puerto Rico law. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the Puerto Rico law claims and granted summary judgment for Defendants on the ADEA claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff did not put forth evidence that sufficed to create a genuine issue of disputed material fact as to whether Defendant's proffered reason for selecting the other employee over him for the new, consolidated position was a pretext for age discrimination. View "Zabala-de Jesus v. Sanofi Aventis PR, Inc." on Justia Law