Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Cunningham v. Cornell University
Plaintiff class participates in “403(b)” retirement plans administered by Cornell University (“Cornell”). Plaintiffs brought this suit against Cornell and its appointed fiduciaries alleging a number of breaches of their fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). Plaintiffs appealed from entry of judgment in Defendants’ favor on all but one claim, which was settled by the parties. On appeal, Plaintiffs challenged: (1) the dismissal of their claim that Cornell entered into a “prohibited transaction” by paying the plans’ recordkeepers unreasonable compensation, (2) the “parsing” of a single count alleging a breach of fiduciary duty into separate sub-claims at the motion to dismiss stage, (3) the award of summary judgment against Plaintiffs for failure to show loss on their claim that Defendants breached their duty of prudence by failing to monitor and control recordkeeping costs, and (4) the award of summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiffs’ claims that Cornell breached its duty of prudence by failing to remove underperforming investment options and by offering higher-cost retail share classes of mutual funds, rather than lower-cost institutional shares. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed Plaintiffs’ prohibited transactions claim and certain duty-of-prudence allegations for failure to state a claim and did not err in granting partial summary judgment to Defendants on the remaining duty-of-prudence claims. In so doing, the court held as a matter of first impression that to state a claim for a prohibited transaction pursuant to 29 U.S.C. Section 1106(a)(1)(C), it is not enough to allege that a fiduciary caused the plan to compensate a service provider for its services. View "Cunningham v. Cornell University" on Justia Law
Eisenhauer v. Culinary Institute of America
This case presents the questions of what Defendant must prove to establish affirmative defenses to pay-discrimination claims under federal and state laws: the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) and New York Labor Law Section 194(1). Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Culinary Institute of America, violated these equal-pay laws by compensating her less than a male colleague. The Culinary Institute responded that a “factor other than sex”—its sex-neutral compensation plan, which incorporates a collective bargaining agreement—justifies the pay disparity. Plaintiff argued that the compensation plan cannot qualify as a “factor other than sex” because it creates a pay disparity unconnected to differences between her job and her colleague’s job. The district court did not consider the divergent requirements imposed by the EPA and Section 194(1) when assessing Plaintiff’s claims and the Culinary Institute’s defense. The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded insofar as the district court granted summary judgment for Defendant on the Section 194(1) claim. The court explained that Plaintiff’s position that a “factor other than sex” must be job-related is incorrect as to the EPA. The plain meaning of the EPA indicates the opposite. The court held that to establish the EPA’s “factor other than sex” defense, a defendant must prove only that the pay disparity in question results from a differential based on any factor except for sex. But Plaintiff’s position is correct as to New York Labor Law Section 194(1). A recent amendment to Section 194(1) explicitly added a job-relatedness requirement. View "Eisenhauer v. Culinary Institute of America" on Justia Law
U.S. ex rel. Quartararo v. Cath. Health Sys. of Long Island Inc.
Catholic Health System of Long Island (“CHS”) brings this interlocutory appeal challenging the denial of its motion to dismiss a qui tam action brought by a former employee (“Relator”) on behalf of the United States and the State of New York under the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”), and the New York False Claims Act (“NYFCA”). According to Relator, CHS and certain of its affiliates falsely certified their compliance with federal law, in violation of the FCA and NYFCA, when they submitted Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement claims without disclosing their ongoing violations of 42 U.S.C. Section 1320a-7b(a)(4) (the “Benefits Conversion Statute”). After the Department of Justice and the New York Attorney General declined to intervene in the suit, the district court denied CHS’s motion to dismiss these claims but granted its motion to certify an interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b) on the grounds that the case presented an issue of first impression. The Second Circuit reversed. The court held that the Benefits Conversion Statute is not violated where, as here, the recipient of a reimbursement payment is under no obligation to utilize the funds in any particular way, Relator has failed to plead an FCA or NYFCA claim. The court explained that because the Medicare and Medicaid payments at issue here were reimbursements for services already provided, with no forward-looking conditions that they be used in any particular way, Defendants’ alleged conduct did not violate the Benefits Conversion Statute. Relator’s claims based on section 1320a-7b(a)(4) therefore fail as a matter of law. View "U.S. ex rel. Quartararo v. Cath. Health Sys. of Long Island Inc." on Justia Law
Abbott v. Comme Des Garcons, Ltd.
The Plaintiffs, former employees of a high-end fashion retailer in New York, allege that their regularly scheduled workweek included more than forty hours per week of work. Plaintiffs claim that they were entitled to an overtime premium under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law, and that their employer misclassified them as managerial employees and failed to pay them an overtime premium. The district court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ FLSA claims for failure to allege the specific number of hours they worked. It then declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state claims. The Second Circuit vacated. The court concluded that Plaintiffs’ complaint adequately states a claim under the FLSA because it alleges that their regularly scheduled workweek exceeded forty hours of work and that the Plaintiffs were denied overtime as a result of being misclassified as managers. The court explained that various Plaintiffs have necessarily plausibly pleaded similar, if not identical, allegations about their regular schedule. In context, the individualized facts giving rise to each Plaintiff’s action – namely, when each Plaintiff worked the regular schedule at issue – are adequately and specifically alleged. View "Abbott v. Comme Des Garcons, Ltd." on Justia Law
Pauwels v. Deloitte LLP
Defendants Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, LLP and its subsidiary, The Bank of New York Mellon (collectively, “BNYM”), retained Plaintiff as an independent contractor to work on an investment valuation project. Plaintiff developed the so-called Pauwels Model. At various times between 2014 and the end of his working relationship with BNYM in 2018, Plaintiff shared spreadsheets derived from the Pauwels Model with various employees and executives at BNYM. In 2016, BNYM retained Defendants Deloitte LLP, Deloitte Tax LLP, and Deloitte USA LLP (collectively, “Deloitte”) to take over the work that Plaintiff had been performing for BNYM. Plaintiff alleged that Deloitte used the spreadsheets to reverse engineer the Pauwels Model and was using the model to conduct the services it provided to BNYM. Plaintiff brought suit against BNYM and Deloitte, alleging, among other claims, that the Pauwels Model embodied a trade secret that they misappropriated. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s judgment insofar as it dismissed Plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim. The court affirmed the remainder of the judgment. The court explained that misappropriation is not an element of a claim for unjust enrichment under New York law. Therefore, a plaintiff’s claim for unjust enrichment does not necessarily rise or fall with a claim of trade secret misappropriation. The court explained that because Plaintiff’s theory of liability is distinct from those underpinning Plaintiff’s claim for trade secret misappropriation, his claim for unjust enrichment should not have been dismissed as duplicative of his claim for trade secret misappropriation. View "Pauwels v. Deloitte LLP" on Justia Law
Wheatley v. New York State United Teachers, et al.
A school bus driver filed an action under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 against two public-sector unions and her employer, the New Hartford Central School District, alleging that their continued deduction of union fees from her paycheck following her resignation from both unions violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., and Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018). She appealed the dismissal of her claims, arguing that the district court erred by prematurely dismissing her claims against the unions for, among other things, failing to adequately plead state action. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that because Appellant voluntarily became a union member and affirmatively agreed to pay union dues through payroll deductions for a set period, the district court properly dismissed her claims. The court explained that New York’s Taylor Law guarantees public employees the right to choose whether to join the union as members, N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law Section 202 and prohibits any union or public employer from “interfering with, restraining or coercing public employees in the exercise of their rights.” Here, it is undisputed that Appellant voluntarily joined the Unions and authorized dues deductions from her wages when she signed the Membership Agreement in 2018. View "Wheatley v. New York State United Teachers, et al." on Justia Law
Heim v. Daniel
Plaintiff, an adjunct professor of economics at SUNY Albany, alleged that his failure to advance within his department to his colleagues’ unfavorable view of the methodology he employs in his scholarship. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Defendants, two of Plaintiff’s colleagues who were involved in the hiring decisions at issue. Plaintiff asserted three causes of action: (1) a claim for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 ; (2) a claim pursuant to Section 1983 for injunctive relief against SUNY Albany President in the form of a court order to “prevent ongoing discrimination against Keynesian economists” in violation of the First Amendment; and (3) an age discrimination claim under New York State’s Human Rights Law. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that while it disagrees with much of the district court’s reasoning, it nonetheless agrees with its ultimate disposition. The court held that Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), does not apply to speech related to academic scholarship or teaching and that Plaintiff’s speech addressed matters of public concern, but that Plaintiff’s First Amendment claim nonetheless fails because under Pickering v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563 (1968), a public university’s interest in deciding for itself what skills, expertise, and academic perspectives it wishes to prioritize in its hiring and staffing decisions outweighs Plaintiff's asserted interest in competing for academic positions unencumbered by university decisionmakers’ assessment of his academic speech. View "Heim v. Daniel" on Justia Law
Rossbach et al. v. Montefiore Medical Center et al.
Plaintiff sued her employer, Defendant Montefiore Medical Center, and two of its employees, asserting claims of sexual harassment during and retaliatory discharge from her employment. Following the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in their favor, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s remaining claims and sought sanctions against Plaintiff and her counsel, Appellant Daniel Altaras and his firm, Appellant Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC (“DSLG”), contending that Plaintiff’s text message evidence was a forgery. The district court found by clear and convincing evidence that Plaintiff had fabricated the text messages, falsely testified about their production, and spoliated evidence in an attempt to conceal her wrongdoing. The district court also found that Altaras had facilitated Plaintiff’s misconduct. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s remaining claims with prejudice and imposed a monetary sanction of attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses incurred by Defendants. On appeal, Appellants challenged various aspects of the district court’s conduct. The court vacated the portion of the district court’s judgment imposing a sanction on Altaras and DSLG and remanded for further proceedings consistent. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court in all other respects. The court held that the district court erred by failing to expressly make the finding of bad faith required to support the sanction it imposed against Altaras and DSLG. The court directed that on remand, the district court may assess in its discretion whether Altaras’s misconduct—including his insistence on defending a complaint founded on obviously fabricated evidence or other actions—amounted to bad faith. View "Rossbach et al. v. Montefiore Medical Center et al." on Justia Law
Perry v. City of New York
In this collective action, a group of 2,519 EMTs and paramedics allege that their employer, the City of New York, willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by requiring them to perform work before and after their shifts without paying them for that work unless the plaintiffs specifically requested overtime compensation from the City. The district entered a $17.78 million judgment against the City. The City appealed, raising four arguments: (1) the jury’s liability verdict cannot stand because plaintiffs failed to request overtime pay for the work at issue; (2) the jury’s willfulness finding was not supported by the evidence; (3) due to an erroneous instruction, the jury failed to make a necessary factual finding regarding the calculation of damages; and (4) the district court incorrectly forbade the jury from considering whether one component of the plaintiffs’ post-shift work was de minimis and therefore noncompensable. The City accordingly asked that the court reverse the jury’s verdict or remand for a new trial on damages. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here, each factor weighs against deeming plaintiffs’ post-shift work de minimis. First, post-shift work was very easy to record: CityTime already does, recording to the minute each post-shift sliver an EMT or paramedic spends at the station. Second, the court explained that the size of the claim favors plaintiffs. The City focuses exclusively on how much time the claimed work takes per day, but the proper inquiry is the amount of time claimed “in the aggregate.” Finally, plaintiffs’ post-shift work occurred regularly—the tasks had to be performed every day. View "Perry v. City of New York" on Justia Law
Horn v. Medical Marijuana, Inc.
Plaintiff-Appellant appealed from a district court order granting summary judgment to Defendants-Appellees on his claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court erroneously held that he lacks RICO standing to sue for his lost earnings because those losses flowed from, or were derivative of, an antecedent personal injury. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. The court explained that RICO’s civil-action provision, 18 U.S.C. Section 1964(c), authorizes a plaintiff to sue for injuries to “business or property.” While that language implies that a plaintiff cannot sue for personal injuries, that negative implication does not bar a plaintiff from suing for injuries to business or property simply because a personal injury was antecedent to those injuries. The court explained that it is simply wrong to suggest that the antecedent-personal-injury bar is necessary to ensure “genuine limitations” in Section 1964(c), or to give restrictive significance to Congress’s implicit intent to exclude some class of injuries by the phrase “business or property”’ when it enacted RICO. View "Horn v. Medical Marijuana, Inc." on Justia Law