Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment 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
Kerson v. Vermont Law School, Inc.
Plaintiff painted two large murals directly onto the walls inside a building on the campus of Defendant-Appellee Vermont Law School, Inc. The work stirred controversy, which eventually prompted the law school to erect a wall of acoustic panels around the murals to permanently conceal them from public view. Kerson brought suit against the law school, alleging that obscuring his work behind a permanent barrier violated his rights under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (“VARA”), which creates a cause of action for artists to prevent the modification and, in certain instances, destruction of works of visual art. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that merely ensconcing a work of art behind a barrier neither modifies nor destroys the work, as contemplated by VARA, and thus does not implicate VARA’s protections. The court explained that this case presents weighty concerns that pin an artist’s moral right to maintain the integrity of an artwork against a private entity’s control over the art in its possession. On the facts presented here, the court resolved this tension by hewing to the statutory text, which reflects Congress’s conscientious balancing of the competing interests at stake. Because mere concealment of the Murals neither “modifies” nor “destroys” them, the Law School has not violated any of VARA’s prohibitions. As such, VARA does not entitle Plaintiff to an order directing the Law School to take the barrier down and continue to display the Murals. View "Kerson v. Vermont Law School, Inc." on Justia Law
Stafford v. Int’l Bus. Machs. Corp.
Petitioner is a former employee of International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”) who signed a separation agreement requiring confidential arbitration of any claims arising from her termination. Petitioner arbitrated an age-discrimination claim against IBM and won. She then filed a petition in federal court under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) to confirm the award, attaching it to the petition under seal but simultaneously moving to unseal it. Shortly after she filed the petition, IBM paid the award in full. The district court granted Petitioner’s petition to confirm the award and her motion to unseal. On appeal, IBM argued that (1) the petition to confirm became moot once IBM paid the award, and (2) the district court erred in unsealing the confidential award. The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s confirmation of the award and remanded with instructions to dismiss the petition as moot. The court reversed the district court’s grant of the motion to unseal. The court explained that Petitioner’s petition to confirm her purely monetary award became moot when IBM paid the award in full because there remained no “concrete” interest in enforcement of the award to maintain a case or controversy under Article III. Second, any presumption of public access to judicial documents is outweighed by the importance of confidentiality under the FAA and the impropriety of Petitioner’s effort to evade the confidentiality provision in her arbitration agreement. View "Stafford v. Int'l Bus. Machs. Corp." on Justia Law
Carr v. New York City Transit Authority
Plaintiff appealed the district court’s judgment dismissing her claims of age, race, and gender discrimination and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. Section 621 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e et seq., and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court applied an incorrect legal standard to her retaliation claim and that it erroneously concluded that she had failed to demonstrate that Defendants’ race-neutral explanations for not selecting her for two internal promotions were pretextual. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that Defendants’ explanations for her non-promotions were pretextual. Second, the court held that although the district court applied an incorrect standard to her retaliatory hostile work environment claim, Plaintiff has nevertheless failed to make out a prima facie case of retaliation and did not demonstrate that her employer’s non-retaliatory explanations were pretextual. The court explained that Defendant’s evidence supporting summary judgment established that Plaintiff received negative performance evaluations because she was not adequately or timely completing her duties and had become increasingly challenging to work with. The court wrote that Plaintiff has not rebutted this showing with evidence demonstrating that the reasons the NYCTA provided for the poor performance reviews were pretextual. Instead, she argues that the performance reviews must have been retaliatory due to their temporal proximity to her complaints. But she offers nothing more to establish causation. View "Carr v. New York City Transit Authority" on Justia Law
In re IBM Arb. Agreement Litig.
Plaintiffs are twenty-six former employees of International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”) who signed separation agreements requiring them to arbitrate any claims arising from their termination by IBM. The agreements set a deadline for initiating arbitration and included a confidentiality requirement. Plaintiffs missed the deadline but nonetheless tried to arbitrate claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”). Their arbitrations were dismissed as untimely. They then sued IBM in district court, seeking a declaration that the deadline is unenforceable because it does not incorporate the “piggybacking rule,” a judge-made exception to the ADEA’s administrative exhaustion requirements. Shortly after filing suit, Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment and attached various documents obtained by Plaintiffs’ counsel in other confidential arbitration proceedings. IBM moved to seal the confidential documents. The district court granted IBM’s motions to dismiss and seal the documents. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that (1) the filing deadline in their separation agreements is unenforceable and (2) the district court abused its discretion by granting IBM’s motion to seal. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court first wrote that the piggybacking rule does not apply to arbitration and, in any event, it is not a substantive right under the ADEA. Second, the court held that the presumption of public access to judicial documents is outweighed here by the Federal Arbitration Act’s (“FAA”) strong policy in favor of enforcing arbitral confidentiality provisions and the impropriety of counsel’s attempt to evade the agreement by attaching confidential documents to a premature motion for summary judgment. View "In re IBM Arb. Agreement Litig." on Justia Law
Roberts v. Genting
On January 6, 2014, Defendant Genting New York LLC, d/b/a Resorts World Casino New York City ("Genting"), closed the Aqueduct Buffet (the "Buffet"), a restaurant located inside the Resorts World Casino (the "Casino") where Plaintiffs worked. Genting gave Plaintiffs no notice of the closure, which took effect the same day and resulted in 177 employees being laid off. The next week, Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Genting, alleging that its failure to provide notice violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (the "WARN Act"), and New York Labor Law Section 860 et seq. (the "New York WARN Act"). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court denied Plaintiffs' motion and granted Genting's. On appeal, Plaintiffs argue that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Genting because, they claim, a reasonable jury could only conclude that the Buffet was either an operating unit or a single site of employment under the WARN Acts. The Second Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court explained that Genting is not entitled to summary judgment because a reasonable finder of fact could conclude that the Buffet was an operating unit. Likewise, there is also evidence in the record to support the conclusion that the Buffet was not an operating unit. It will be for the finder of fact at trial to weigh the evidence comprising the "somewhat mixed" record in this case to answer the question. The court concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Genting and in dismissing Plaintiffs' claims under the WARN Acts. View "Roberts v. Genting" on Justia Law