Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Military Law
Rivera-Melendez v. Pfizer Pharms., LLC
Plaintiff was employed by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, LLC as an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) group leader. In 2008, Plaintiff, member of the U.S. Navy, was called to active duty. During Plaintiff's tour of duty, Pfizer restructured its API department, eliminating the API group leader position and replacing it with two separate classifications, API team leader and API service coordinator. After being discharged from active military service, Plaintiff was appointed to the API service coordinator position. Plaintiff subsequently filed suit against Pfizer, asserting Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act claims and pendant state law claims, alleging, inter alia, that Pfizer violated his rights by failing to provide him with an opportunity to apply for the API team leader position. The district court concluded that because the API team leader was not an automatic promotion, the escalator principle and reasonable certainty test did not apply to Plaintiff's claim. The First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district court's judgment and remanded, holding that the escalator principle and reasonable certainty test apply regardless of whether the promotion at issue is automatic or non-automatic. View "Rivera-Melendez v. Pfizer Pharms., LLC" on Justia Law
Truczinskas v. Dir., Office of Workers’ Comp. Programs
Petitioner's husband was employed by GD Arabia, Ltd. as a military trainer in Saudi Arabia. After he was found dead by asphyxiation by hanging, Petitioner filed a claim for death benefits under the Defense Base Act (DBA). Pursuant to agency policy and as authorized by statute, the matter was transferred to the district director's office in Boston and adjudicated there. An ALJ denied Petitioner's claim, and the Department of Labor's Benefits Review Board affirmed. Petitioner sought direct review in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, raising an issue of jurisdiction on which the circuit courts were divided. The First Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the Review Board acted reasonably in upholding the ALJ's denial of compensation, as the record supported the inference of suicide and none of Petitioner's suggested hypotheses might entail coverage under the DBA. View "Truczinskas v. Dir., Office of Workers' Comp. Programs" on Justia Law
Palmquist v. Shinseki
Palmquist, a veteran, injured in a helicopter crash that caused residual brain injury, was entitled to preference in federal employment, 5 U.S.C. 2108(3)(C), 3309(1), 3313(2)(A). The VA hired him as a medical support assistant. Aichner was his supervisor. Palmquist applied for promotion but did not receive an interview. He believed that the VA had not honored his preference, and told Aichner that he was going to complain to the equal employment opportunity specialist and his congressman. He did so. Aichner and Palmquist maintained a generally positive relationship for the next two years, but Palmquist was sometimes preoccupied, left the unit during working hours to do personal business, distracted other employees, and used his computer for personal purposes. Palmquist sought a new position. An interview went well. Interviewers warned Palmquist against unsolicited post-interview contact, but he e-mailed both to reiterate his qualifications. Aichner gave a generally favorable recommendation, but the recommendation was one factor in Palmquist not getting the job. The court rejected his claim under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701-796. The First Circuit affirmed. The Act does not entitle a plaintiff to relief when retaliation for complaints about disability discrimination is a motivating factor in, but not the “but-for” cause of, adverse employment action. View "Palmquist v. Shinseki" on Justia Law
Sanchez v. United States
More than 7,000 named plaintiffs brought suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), 2671-2680, asserting injuries because of the U.S. Navy's alleged negligence in emitting pollutants during military exercises (which ended in 2003) at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. The district court dismissed with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed. The limited abrogation of sovereign immunity in the FTCA does not extend to these claims because of the discretionary function exception, which precludes FTCA actions against government conduct which is both within the discretion of the relevant government party and susceptible to policy-related judgments. The court rejected arguments that the Navy acted beyond its discretion because it allegedly violated mandatory directives concerning water pollution issued pursuant to the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251-1389; violated a pair of permits that purportedly forbid firing depleted uranium bullets on Vieques; violated unidentified internal regulations, policies, directives, and orders; and failed to comply with a purported duty to warn.
United States v. Rogers
The buyer of a personal computer found child pornography on the hard drive and contacted authorities. The seller, a non-commissioned Naval officer, was ordered to return to his home, where police were questioning his pregnant wife. His house was searched and he was questioned at the house and at the station. He entered a guilty plea under 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(5)(b) and 2258(8)(A), reserving the right to appeal denial of a motion to suppress. The First Circuit remanded. Given the influence of military authority, defendant was in custody when he was questioned at home without having received a Miranda warning. The situation at the house would have left any member of the armed services reasonably feeling that he lacked free choice to extricate himself, and sufficiently compelled to answer to authority. Authorities deliberately planned to subject defendant to unwarned questioning, so a warning issued after leaving the house may have been inadequate to cure the situation with respect to statements made at the station.
Fryer v. A.S.A.P. Fire & Safety Corp., Inc.
Plaintiff, a sales representative for the company and member of the National Guard was deployed to Iraq. When he returned, the company told him there were no positions available. The company eventually offered, and plaintiff accepted, a much lower position, but later terminated plaintiff for absenteeism. The district court awarded damages against the company for violating the Uniform Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4311; Massachusetts anti-discrimination law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, 4(1)(D); and the Massachusetts Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148 and awarded attorney's fees. The First Circuit affirmed, first holding that the company. had waived a preemption claim. There wass ample evidence to permit a reasonable jury to conclude that the company acted willfully in refusing to reinstate plaintiff in his pre-service position and that its claim of absenteeism was pretextual.
Elgin v. U.S. Dept of Treasury
The district court rejected a challenge to 5 U.S.C. 3328, which bars males who have knowingly and willfully failed to register for the draft by age 26 from employment by the executive branch. The First Circuit vacated and remanded for entry of a judgment denying relief for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The exclusive remedy for the plaintiffs, who were dismissed or resigned from federal employment after discovery of their failure to register, is under the Civil Service Reform Act. Although the claims implicate constitutional violations, Congress intended to consolidate employee removal actions in a single forum. The Merit System Protection Board cannot grant relief by invalidating the statute, but a court could do so on review of board action. The court characterized the constitutional challenges as "unpromising."