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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Plaintiff worked as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines. She alleged that, while working on an airplane, she heard a passenger refer to her using a racist remark and reported the passenger’s remark to the pilot. The pilot responded by demanding that Plaintiff “step out on the jet bridge with the passenger,” and when she refused the pilot had her removed from the plane. Plaintiff reported the pilot’s conduct to her supervisor, and within two months of these events Plaintiff alleged she was subjected to random drug testing, wrongfully suspended, and ultimately fired. She filed a complaint in state court, alleging retaliation and vicarious liability under the New York City Human Rights Law. (“NYCHRL”) Delta removed the case to federal district court and moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The district court granted the motion, holding that Leroy failed adequately to allege that Delta had discriminated against her and that she therefore failed to allege retaliation for a protected activity under the NYCHRL.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling dismissing Plaintiff’s claims finding that her complaint did not allege facts adequate to support a good-faith, reasonable belief that Delta engaged in discrimination against her. The court explained that the NYCHRL prohibits retaliation for “opposing [the] employer’s discrimination.” To succeed on a retaliation claim, the plaintiff must at least have a good-faith, reasonable belief that she was opposing an unlawful employment practice. On the facts as alleged, Plaintiff could not have reasonably and in good faith believed that the passenger’s comment or the pilot’s conduct was an unlawful employment practice. View "Leroy v. Delta Air Lines, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, sued her former employer, alleging a variety of employment law violations. Defendant moved to dismiss her suit and to compel arbitration. Defendant supported the motion by presenting an arbitration agreement bearing what appeared to be the worker’s electronic signature. In a sworn declaration, however, the worker categorically and specifically denied that the signature was hers. She also pointed to other circumstantial evidence as to its inauthenticity. The district court concluded that the worker’s evidence was insufficient to create a triable issue of fact, and so granted the restaurant’s motion.   The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of Defendant’s motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The court held that the district court erred when it disregarded Plaintiff’s sworn declaration as “nothing more than a de facto extension of [her] pleadings.”The court explained that it resolves agreement-formation questions by applying the law of the state at issue. Here, under New York law, when moving to compel arbitration, “[t]he party seeking . . . arbitration bears an initial burden of demonstrating that an agreement to arbitrate was made.” As such, the burden shifted to Plaintiff, who needed to counter with at least “some evidence . . . to substantiate [her] denial” that an agreement had been made. Here, Plaintiff’s detailed accounting, under oath, is “some evidence” that she did not agree to arbitration. Thus, there is a triable issue of fact as to whether she ever received, or became aware of, Defendant’s arbitration agreements, regardless of whether she ultimately signed them. View "Barrows v. Brinker Restaurant Corporation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, who deliver baked goods in designated territories in Connecticut, brought an action on behalf of a putative class against the manufacturer of the baked goods that Plaintiffs deliver. The district court compelled arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement that is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and Connecticut law. Plaintiffs claimed that they are not subject to the FAA because Section 1 of the FAA excludes contracts with “seamen, railroad employees, [and] any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” 9 U.S.C. Section 1. The exclusion is construed to cover “transportation workers.”   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision ordering arbitration and dismissing Plaintiff’s lawsuit against Defendant for unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment. The court held that Plaintiffs did not qualify as transportation workers.The court reasoned that though Plaintiffs spend appreciable parts of their working days moving goods from place to place by truck, the stores and restaurants are not buying the movement of the baked goods, so long as they arrive. The charges are for the baked goods themselves, and the movement of those goods is at most a component of the total price. The commerce is in breads, buns, rolls, and snack cakes--not transportation services. View "Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her employer, the Institute of International Education, for discrimination in violation of federal, state, and local, employment law. The district court referred the matter to New York’s mediation program and the parties reached an agreement to settle the case. The parties committed that agreement to writing, signed it, had their counsel sign it, and had the mediator sign it. The week after the mediation, Plaintiff contacted the district court seeking to revoke her acceptance of the mediation agreement and to continue the litigation. The Institute then moved to enforce the mediation agreement. The district court enforced the mediation agreement and entered judgment in favor of the Institute.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court judgment. The court concluded that the mediation agreement bound the parties to its terms. The court reasoned that the case is not one in which the language of the agreement merely committed the parties to “work together in accordance with the terms and conditions outlined in” the agreement, which would be an agreement to continue negotiating. And while this language was pre-printed, the parties could have crossed it out if they did not intend to acknowledge that agreement on all issues had been reached or they could have added language in the handwritten portion of the mediation agreement reserving the right not to be bound by the mediation agreement’s terms until the final agreement was drafted. Further, the court found that Plaintiff was not under duress when she signed the mediation agreement. View "Murphy v. Inst. of Int'l Educ." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the USTA discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and discriminatorily interfered with his employment contract with AJ Squared Security, in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1981, by rejecting his temporary assignment as a security guard for the 2016 U.S. Open.The Second Circuit concurred with the district court that plaintiff has failed to state any claim for relief under Title VII or section 1981. The court concluded that plaintiff did not plausibly allege the existence of an employer-employee relationship necessary to sustain his Title VII claims. Furthermore, plaintiff did not allege any facts to support his claim under section 1981 that, but for his race, the USTA would not have interfered with his employment contract. However, because plaintiff—represented by court-appointed counsel for the first time on appeal—has indicated that he can plead further allegations of a "joint employer" relationship, and because he has plausibly alleged that the USTA rejected his assignment in retaliation for his protected activities against a USTA subcontractor, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. 2000e–3(a), and remanded with instructions that plaintiff be permitted to amend his complaint as to that claim. The court affirmed as to the Title VII and section 1981 claims. View "Felder v. United States Tennis Association" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's judgment deeming his Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i) notice of dismissal without prejudice withdrawn and compelling arbitration. The court held that the district court properly retained jurisdiction following the notice of dismissal to conduct a Cheeks review of any possible settlement of plaintiff's Fair Labor Standards Act claims; and that the district court reasonably interpreted his request to continue the litigation as a withdrawal of the notice of dismissal, and, in its discretion, deemed it withdrawn. Therefore, plaintiff failed to take a timely appeal of the order deeming his notice of dismissal withdrawn, and the order to stay and compel arbitration is an unappealable interlocutory order. View "Samake v. Thunder Lube, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a bridal designer and social media influencer, appealed the district court's preliminary injunction (PI), based in part on an employment agreement between plaintiff and JLM, ordering plaintiff not to compete with JLM through the end of her contractual term, enjoining her from using her name and its derivatives in trade or commerce, and granting JLM exclusive control over three disputed social media accounts for the duration of the litigation.The Second Circuit concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in entering the noncompete and name-rights prongs of the injunction, which properly flow from JLM's likely meritorious claims against plaintiff for breach of contract. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in rejecting plaintiff's contention that JLM breached the contract by refusing to pay her after she stopped working. However, the court concluded that the district court exceeded its discretion by transferring exclusive control over the disputed social media accounts to JLM while explicitly declining to assess whether JLM would likely succeed on its claim that it owned the accounts. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "JLM Couture, Inc. v. Gutman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former IBM employees who entered into severance agreements in which they agreed not to join any collective actions against IBM, filed suit challenging the validity of those collective-action waivers, alleging claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The district court granted IBM's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. In 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, 556 U.S. 247 (2009), the Supreme Court held that section 626(f)(1) of the ADEA applied to substantive rights, like the statutory right to be free from workplace age discrimination, but not procedural ones, like the right to seek relief from a court in the first instance.The Second Circuit concluded that collective-action waivers, like arbitration clauses, address procedural, not substantive rights, and thus do not require special disclosures under section 626(f)(1) of the ADEA for their acceptance to be knowing and voluntary. Therefore, the district court correctly held that 14 Penn Plaza governs this case and granted IBM's motion to dismiss. View "Estle v. International Business Machines Corp." on Justia Law

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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

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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