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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Defendant Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (the "Company"), which does business as National Grid, is an electric and natural gas utility that operates throughout New York State. According to Plaintiff Local Union 97, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO (the "Union"), Defendant agreed to provide to certain retired employees, former members of the Union. The Union filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. Section 185(a). The same day, the Company filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing the Complaint. The district court granted the Union's motion to compel arbitration, denied the Company's motion for summary judgment, and ordered that the case be closed.   The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that the agreement covers the dispute. The court explained that when it negotiated the Agreement, the Union bargained both for health insurance benefits for retired employees and for a grievance procedure that included, where necessary, access to arbitration. The court explained that it expressed no view on the merits of the Union's grievance; that is a question for the arbitrator. But interpreting the collective bargaining agreement in light of the principles the Supreme Court reaffirmed in Granite Rock, it is clear that the parties intended to arbitrate this dispute. View "Local Union 97, Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO v. Niagara Mohawk" on Justia Law

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Defendant Donald J. Trump and Appellant the United States of America appealed from a district court judgment denying their motion to substitute the United States in this action pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988. In the Second Circuit’s prior opinion, the court vacated the district court’s judgment that Trump did not act within the scope of his employment, and the court certified to the D.C. Court of Appeals the following question: Under the laws of the District, were the allegedly libelous public statements made, during his term in office, by the President of the United States, denying allegations of misconduct, with regards to events prior to that term of office, within the scope of his employment as President of the United States?   The D.C. Court of Appeals reformulated our certified question in two parts, asking (1) whether the D.C. Court of Appeals should opine on the scope of the President of the United States’ employment and (2) how the court might clarify or modify the District of Columbia’s law of respondeat superior to resolve the issue in this appeal. The D.C. Court of Appeals answered the former part in the negative and provided additional guidance in response to the latter. Having vacated the district court’s judgment in the court’s prior opinion, the court remanded for further proceedings consistent with the guidance provided in the D.C. Court of Appeals’ opinion. View "E. Jean Carroll v. Donald J. Trump" on Justia Law