Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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The Trustees of the New York State Nurses Association Pension Plan (the Trustees) and White Oak Global Advisors, LLC (White Oak) entered into an investment management agreement, which included an arbitration clause. The Trustees later brought several fiduciary duty claims against White Oak under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which were resolved through arbitration. The arbitrator issued an award in favor of the Trustees, which the Trustees sought to confirm in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.White Oak appealed the confirmation, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction and that the court erroneously interpreted the award. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's jurisdiction, finding that the Trustees' petition to confirm the award was cognizable under ERISA § 502(a)(3). The court also affirmed the district court's interpretation of the award regarding the disgorgement of pre-award interest and the "Day One" fees. However, the court vacated and remanded the district court's confirmation of the disgorgement of White Oak's "profits," finding the award too ambiguous to enforce. The court also vacated and remanded the district court's order for White Oak to pay the Trustees' attorneys' fees and costs, finding the district court's findings insufficiently specific. View "Trustees of the NYSNAPP v. White Oak Glob. Adv." on Justia Law

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The case involves Ramon Dejesus Cedeno, an employee of Strategic Financial Solutions, LLC, and a participant in its Strategic Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Cedeno sued the company, its trustee Argent Trust Company, and other defendants under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), alleging that a transaction caused the Plan to incur substantial losses and that Argent breached fiduciary duties owed to Plan participants. The defendants moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), pointing to a provision in the Plan’s governing document that required Plan participants to resolve any claims related to the Plan in arbitration.The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied the motion, reasoning that the agreement was unenforceable because it would prevent Cedeno from effectuating rights guaranteed by Congress through ERISA, namely, the plan-wide relief available under Section 502(a)(2) to enforce the rights established in ERISA Section 409(a).On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the arbitration provision is unenforceable because it would prevent Cedeno from pursuing the Plan-wide remedies Sections 409(a) and 502(a)(2) unequivocally provide. The court concluded that the entire arbitration provision is null and void due to a non-severability clause in the Plan. View "Cedeno v. Sasson" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Dycom Industries, Inc. ("Dycom") and its predecessor, Midtown Express, LLC ("Midtown"), a cable contractor that installed, serviced, and disconnected telecommunications cables for Time Warner Cable Company customers in New York City and Bergen County, New Jersey. Midtown had collective bargaining agreements with Local Union No. 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which required contributions to the Pension, Hospitalization & Benefit Plan of the Electrical Industry (the "Fund"), a multiemployer pension plan under ERISA. In 2016, Midtown ceased operations and contributions to the Fund, leading the Fund to assess withdrawal liability against Midtown and its successor, Dycom, under ERISA.Midtown demanded arbitration, arguing that its employees were performing work in the building and construction industry, and thus it was exempt from withdrawal liability under ERISA. The arbitrator determined that Midtown did not qualify for the exemption, concluding that Midtown's employees did not perform work in the building and construction industry. Dycom then filed a lawsuit to vacate the arbitrator's award, and the Fund filed a cross-motion to confirm the award. The district court adopted the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, denied Dycom's motion to vacate the award, and granted the Fund's cross-motion to confirm the award.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. The court concluded that the cable installation services at issue did not involve work in the "building and construction industry" under ERISA, and thus Dycom was not exempt from withdrawal liability. The court found that the arbitrator correctly determined that the work performed by Midtown was not work within the building and construction industry under ERISA, and thus the exemption did not apply. View "Dycom Indus., Inc. v. Pension, Hosp'n & Benefit Plan of the Elec. Indus." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff-Appellant, Kristen King, claimed that her employer, Aramark Services Inc., subjected her to a sex-based hostile work environment, discrimination, and retaliation in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The United States District Court for the Western District of New York dismissed King’s claims. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision on the New York State Human Rights Law claims but vacated the decision on the Title VII claims.The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that the impact of Aramark’s alleged discriminatory acts were only incidentally felt in New York. Regarding the Title VII hostile work environment claim, the court found that King’s termination was not only a discrete act supporting a distinct claim for damages, but also part of the pattern of discriminatory conduct that comprises her hostile environment claim. The court held that because King’s termination occurred within the limitations period, the continuing violation doctrine rendered King’s hostile work environment claim timely. Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of King’s New York State Human Rights Law claims but vacated the dismissal of King’s Title VII claims and remanded the case for further proceedings on those claims. View "King v. Aramark Services Inc." on Justia Law

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Six full-time professors at the City University of New York filed a lawsuit challenging New York’s Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act, known as the Taylor Law, alleging it violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and association. The professors argued that the law unfairly compelled them to be part of a bargaining unit represented exclusively by the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY (PSC), despite their vehement disagreement with PSC's political views, specifically on issues related to Israel and Palestine. They also challenged a specific section of the Taylor Law which allows PSC to decline representation of non-union employees in certain proceedings.The defendants filed motions to dismiss the claims, which were granted by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The professors appealed, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court agreed with the district court that the professors' claims were foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight, and that the professors failed to allege that the contested section of the Taylor Law violates the First Amendment. Thus, the court concluded that the PSC's exclusive representation of the professors in collective bargaining did not violate the First Amendment, and that the limited fiduciary duty imposed by the contested section of the Taylor Law did not burden their First Amendment rights. View "Goldstein v. Professional Staff Congress/CUNY" on Justia Law

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John D. Whitfield's application for a job as a Youth Development Specialist with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) was rejected. Whitfield alleged that the rejection was discriminatory and violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He initially challenged the decision in New York State Supreme Court through an Article 78 proceeding, which was dismissed. He then initiated a federal court action, which was also dismissed by the District Court on res judicata grounds. The District Court determined that the state court proceeding was a “hybrid” proceeding where Whitfield could have pursued the claims he raises in the federal action.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed, concluding that the state court adjudicated the matter as a pure Article 78 proceeding, not as a hybrid. Therefore, the state court lacked the power to award Whitfield the full scope of relief he now seeks in this action, and the District Court erred by dismissing the amended complaint on res judicata grounds. The judgment of the District Court was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Whitfield v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The case being summarized involves two subclasses of current and former tipped employees at two New York City restaurants, who filed suit against the restaurants and their owners for violations of the New York Labor Law (NYLL) and the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Prior to the trial, the parties agreed to present only the NYLL claims to the jury. The defendants appealed the partial final judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in exercising supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ NYLL claims.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that because the plaintiffs’ federal claims were never formally dismissed, and the partial final judgment did not contain a disposition as to the federal claims, the matter had to be remanded to the district court. The purpose of the remand was to allow the district court to clarify the record as to the status of the FLSA claims. The court concluded that the lack of clarity concerning the FLSA claims impaired its ability to review the defendants’ challenges, leading to questions about the validity of the district court’s judgment certifying the appeal. The mandate was issued forthwith, with jurisdiction restored to the panel without the need for a new notice of appeal if, within thirty days, either party informed the court by letter that the district court had supplemented the record to clarify the status of the FLSA claims. View "Zivkovic v. Laura Christy LLC" on Justia Law

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This case revolves around the plaintiff, Cindy L. Moll, who made allegations of gender-based discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliatory transfer of her job site, and discriminatory or retaliatory termination of her employment against her former employer, Telesector Resources Group Inc., in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the New York State Human Rights Law. She also claimed she was paid less than her male co-workers for similar work, violating Title VII and the Equal Pay Act.The United States District Court for the Western District of New York initially granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, dismissing all of the plaintiff's claims. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated parts of the district court's judgment and remanded for trial.Regarding the hostile work environment claim, the Court of Appeals concluded that the district court erred in finding that the plaintiff failed to present a prima facie case. The Court of Appeals noted the district court's failure to take all the circumstances into account and to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.In relation to the retaliatory transfer claim, the Court of Appeals held that the district court failed to view the record in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. It disagreed with the district court's conclusion that the transfer of the plaintiff's job site to Syracuse was not an adverse employment action and found that the district court ignored evidence that could support a finding of causation.As for the discriminatory or retaliatory termination of employment claim, the Court of Appeals found that the district court did not adhere to the summary judgment principles. It concluded that the record revealed genuine issues as to all of the elements of the plaintiff's claim that the defendant's decision to transfer her job site to Syracuse violated Title VII's prohibition against retaliation.Finally, concerning the Equal Pay Act claim, the Court of Appeals held that there were genuine issues of material fact to be tried. It pointed out that the district court failed to adequately account for the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of some of the plaintiff's other claims but vacated the judgment as to the claims of hostile work environment, retaliatory transfer, discriminatory or retaliatory termination of employment, and the Equal Pay Act claim as to one of the plaintiff's identified comparators. The case was remanded for trial. View "Moll v. Telesector" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Dr. Misty Blanchette Porter, had been a staff physician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) since 1996. She specialized in reproductive medicine and was highly regarded in her field. In November 2015, Dr. Porter developed a medical condition that required her to take a medical leave of absence and subsequently work reduced hours. In 2017, DHMC decided to close the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Division (REI) where Dr. Porter worked and terminate her employment. Dr. Porter claimed that her termination was due to her disability and her whistleblowing activity, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the laws of Vermont and New Hampshire.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to DHMC. The court found that there was direct evidence that the decision to terminate Dr. Porter's employment was based, in whole or in part, on her disability. The court also found that a jury could reasonably infer that Dr. Edward Merrens, the chief decision-maker in the termination, was aware of Dr. Porter's whistleblowing activity. The case was affirmed in part, vacated and remanded in part. View "Porter v. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center" on Justia Law

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In the dispute between fashion designer and social media influencer Hayley Paige Gutman and her former employer, JLM Couture, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit considered the preliminary injunction and contempt order issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The lower court had awarded JLM control of two social media accounts previously managed by Gutman and enforced a five-year restrictive covenant that prohibited Gutman from identifying herself as a designer of certain goods. The court also held Gutman in civil contempt for posts on Instagram that it deemed as marketing, violating an earlier version of the preliminary injunction.The Court of Appeals dismissed Gutman's appeal from the contempt order due to lack of appellate jurisdiction. It affirmed the district court's refusal to dissolve the preliminary injunction based on the law of the case. However, the Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s order that modified its preliminary injunction. The court found fault in the lower court's determination of the ownership of the disputed social media accounts and its failure to evaluate the reasonableness of the five-year noncompete restraint on Gutman. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion of the Court of Appeals. View "JLM Couture, Inc. v. Gutman" on Justia Law