Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Green v. Department of Education of the City of New York
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim, procedural due process claim, and equal protection claim against the DOE and UFT for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).In regard to the fair representation claim, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal with prejudice but clarified that the claim should have been dismissed for failure to state a claim rather than for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court explained that Congress has not limited the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts. It has defined the requirements of a cause of action under the National Labor Relations Act to extend only to circumstances in which the employer is not a state or a political subdivision of a state. In this case, because plaintiff cannot allege that he worked for an "employer" under the Act, he fails to state a claim against UFT for violating its duty of fair representation, and his complaint is properly dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6).In regard to plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against the DOE, the court concluded that the district court correctly determined plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to support the inference that the alleged racial discrimination and First Amendment retaliation resulted from an official custom or policy. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the DOE deviated from New York Education Law 3020-a procedures and this amounted to a constitutional due process violation. Furthermore, plaintiff's argument that the arbitrator was biased fails because due process does not require that pre-termination hearings occur before a neutral adjudicator. The court also concluded that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's claim of discrimination against public school teachers in New York City based on different procedures for selecting disciplinary hearing arbitrators. Finally, to the extent that plaintiff asserts a new equal protection claim on appeal due to treatment of public school employees represented by a different union, that claim is not properly before the court. View "Green v. Department of Education of the City of New York" on Justia Law
Simmons v. Trans Express Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York Labor Law, alleging that she was entitled to unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees. The Second Circuit certified to the New York Court of Appeals a question regarding what preclusive effect a judgment of the small claims court has on a subsequent wage-and-hour action. Guided by the Court of Appeals' ruling that traditional claim preclusion principles apply to judgments of the small claims court, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's suit on claim-preclusion grounds. The court also held that claim preclusion is a valid defense to an action brought under the FLSA. View "Simmons v. Trans Express Inc." on Justia Law
Specht v. City of New York
Specht, employed as a New York City fire marshal, alleged that after he refused to file a false report concerning the circumstances of a fire he was investigating and publicly discussed misconduct on the part of his supervisors, he was the subject of retaliation. The fire had resulted in serious damage to a building where a motion picture was being filmed and the death of a firefighter. Sprecht had reported a tentative conclusion that the fire was caused by the movie crew. He was reassigned after he refused to comply with instructions to report a faulty boiler as the cause. Specht sued, alleging First Amendment retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 1983, and other claims. The district court dismissed the suit.The Second Circuit reversed in part Specht alleged a First Amendment retaliation claim but failed to state a New York State Civil Service Law claim or intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. Sprecht’s report to the Department of Investigation, his meeting with the District Attorney’s office, and his communications with local press touched on matters of public concern. Specht’s refusal to file a false report and his complaints to outside agencies constituted speech as a citizen, rather than only as a public employee. View "Specht v. City of New York" on Justia Law
Horror Inc. v. Miller
The Second Circuit held that, for Copyright Act purposes, the screenwriter Victor Miller was an independent contractor of the film production company Manny, Inc., in 1979, when Miller wrote the screenplay for the landmark horror film Friday the 13th, released in 1980. Manny argues primarily that Miller's membership in the Writers' Guild of America, East, Inc. (WGA), and Manny's participation in the producers' collective bargaining agreement with the WGA in the same period establish that Miller was Manny's employee for Copyright Act purposes.The court concluded that copyright law, not labor law, controls the "work for hire" determination here. The court explained that because the definition of "employee" under copyright law is grounded in the common law of agency and the Reid framework and serves different purposes than do the labor law concepts regarding employment relationships, there is no sound basis for using labor law to override copyright law goals. Furthermore, there was no error in the district court's refusal to treat Miller's WGA membership as a separate Reid factor. The court applied the Reid factors and concluded that Miller was an independent contractor when he wrote the screenplay and is therefore entitled to authorship rights. The court also concluded that the notice of termination that Miller gave under section 203 of the Copyright Act is effective as to Manny and its successors. The court found that the Companies' remaining arguments did not provide a basis for reversal and thus affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Miller. View "Horror Inc. v. Miller" on Justia Law
United States v. Bedi
Datalink and its president appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Government on its claim to collect back wages on behalf of a native of Iceland and former Datalink employee. The back wages were owing to the employee under federal law governing the H-1B visa program. On appeal, defendants contend that the Government may not use the procedures of the Fair Debt Collection Procedures Act (FDCPA) to collect the unpaid wages.The Second Circuit reversed the district court's judgment, holding that the Government may not rely on the FDCPA to collect back wages on the employee's behalf. The court agreed with defendants that an administrative award of back wages is not an amount "owing to the United States" under the FDCPA, and overruled NLRB v. E.D.P. Medical Computer Systems, Inc., 6 F.3d 951 (2d Cir. 1993), as wrongly decided and inconsistent with the ordinary meaning of the FDCPA. View "United States v. Bedi" on Justia Law
Ziparo v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, CSX, for unlawful retaliation under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), alleging that he was terminated because he engaged in protected activity by "reporting, in good faith, a hazardous safety or security condition."The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of CSX, concluding that the district court erred in determining that plaintiff's belief that the subject of his report – pressure from supervisors to make false entries in work reports causing employees undue stress and distraction from their duties – concerned a "hazardous safety or security condition" was objectively unreasonable. Rather, the court concluded that the FRSA's protection of reports made "in good faith" requires only that the reporting employee subjectively believe that the matter being reported constitutes a hazardous safety or security condition, regardless of whether that belief is objectively reasonable. The district court also erred in determining that, in any event, only physical conditions subject to the railroad's control could constitute such a condition. The court explained that the statutory text suggests no reason to confine the meaning of "hazardous safety or security condition" to encompass only physical conditions. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Ziparo v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law
National Labor Relations Board v. Newark Electric Corp.
The Second Circuit granted the Board's petition for enforcement of its decision and order requiring the Companies to reinstate a former employee and to comply with their collective bargaining obligations with the Union. This case arose from a long-pending labor dispute between the Union and three closely related corporations doing business in Newark: Newark Electric, Newark 2.0, and Colacino.Although the court agreed with the Companies that the Board's original complaint was invalid, the court rejected their challenge to its ratification by the NLRB's General Counsel and concluded that the Board's order may be enforced. The court also concluded that the Board's determination that the Companies were a single employer and alter egos is supported by substantial evidence. The court found persuasive the Companies' further argument that Colacino's termination of its Letter of Assent with the Union also needed Newark Electric's obligations toward the Union. Finally, the court found that substantial credible evidence supports the Board's conclusion that Colacino Industries violated section 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act when it terminated the employee. View "National Labor Relations Board v. Newark Electric Corp." on Justia Law
Mujo v. Jani-King International, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed a class action on behalf of Connecticut-based franchisees, in which they allege that their franchise agreement misclassifies franchisees as independent contractors rather than employees. Plaintiffs claim that the collection of franchise fees violates the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-71e, and the Connecticut anti-kickback statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-73.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act claim and grant of summary judgment on the anti-kickback claim. The court concluded that the district court correctly applied the principles set forth by the Connecticut Supreme Court in Geysen v. Securitas Sec. Servs. USA, Inc., 142 A.3d 227, 234 (Conn. 2016), and Mytych v. May Dep't Stores Co., 793 A.2d 1068, 1072 (Conn. 2002), in concluding that plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act. The court explained that, even if plaintiffs should have been classified as employees under Connecticut law, Mytych forecloses their section 31-71e claim. Likewise, the district court properly granted summary judgment to Jani-King on plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim. Finally, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to certify proposed questions of law to the Connecticut Supreme Court. View "Mujo v. Jani-King International, Inc." on Justia Law
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. National Labor Relations Board
The Second Circuit granted a petition for review challenging the Board's dismissal of the union's unfair labor practice charges against ADT, alleging that ADT violated Sections 8(a)(5) and (1) of the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to bargain before implementing a mandatory six-day workweek for nearly all technicians at its facilities in Albany and Syracuse, New York.The court agreed with the union that the Board erred in construing the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) by failing to give effect to scheduling provisions that limit ADT's rights to mandate overtime. The court concluded that the CBAs did not allow ADT to unilaterally impose a mandatory six-day workweek and that ADT violated Sections 8(a)(5) and (1) of the Act by refusing to bargain before implementing the change. Accordingly, the court vacated the Board's order and remanded for further consideration. View "International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Lively v. WAFRA Investment Advisory Group, Inc.
After plaintiff was terminated by his former employer for violating company policies prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, he filed suit alleging that the stated basis for his termination was pretext and that the real reason he was fired was age discrimination and retaliation, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The district court granted defendants judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).Although on a Rule 12(c) motion the district court should not have weighed the plausibility of competing allegations in the movant's pleading or considered evidence extrinsic to the non-movant's pleading, the court affirmed the district court's judgment because plaintiff's complaint failed to plead that either his age or protected speech was a but-for cause of his termination. Likewise, plaintiff's retaliation claim fails for similar reasons. View "Lively v. WAFRA Investment Advisory Group, Inc." on Justia Law