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Landmarks in the Law - Employment & Labor Law

Judicial Law

• Race discrimination; no adverse action. An African-American employee’s claims of race discrimination and retaliation after he depleted his medical leave following a reprimand were rejected by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The depletion of his medical leave did not constitute actionable “adverse action.” Jones v. City of St. Louis, 825 F.3d 476 (8th Circ. 6/9/2016).

• Rehabilitation Act; disability claim rejected. Another similar 8th Circuit ruling upheld dismissal of an employee’s claims of disability discrimination. Under the Federal Rehabilitation Act, the employer made reasonable accommodations to minimize the worker’s exposure to noxious fumes and the remediated smells did not create an unfavorable work environment.Dick v. Dickman State University, 826 F.3d 1054 (8th Circ. 6/23/2016).

• FMLA; no discriminatory intent. An employee’s claim of interference under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was unsuccessful. Because she voluntarily agreed to work at home and there was no discriminatory intent, the 8th Circuit upheld dismissal of her lawsuit.Massey-Diez v. University of Iowa Community Medical Services, Inc. 826 F.3d 1149 (8th Circ. 6/27/2016).

• Whistleblower claim; federal preemption. A whistleblower claimant also was rebuffed by the 8th Circuit. The claim by a flight paramedic that he was improperly terminated under state law for reporting federal air safety regulations was preempted by the Federal Airlines Deregulation Act. Watson v. Air Methods Corp., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15546 (8th Cir. 8/24/2016).

• Labor contract; no pay raise extensions. Reversing a ruling of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the 8th Circuit held that an employer was not obligated to continue pay raises for employees under an expired collective bargaining agreement. The expiration of the labor contract negated annual pay raises given during its term. The Finley Hospital v. NLRB, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 11695 (Minn. Ct. App. 2016) (unpublished).

• Arbitration award; lack of authority. An arbitration lacked authority to decide a management-labor dispute over changes to a prior-contribution program, which led the 8th Circuit to uphold the vacating of the award. But the lower court erred in rescinding a provision in the agreement increasing the employer’s pension contributions because of the employer’s “inattention” to the wording in the draft of that clause. Silgan Containers Corp. v. Sheet Metal Workers, 820 F.3d 366 (8th Cir. 4/15/2016).

• WARN claim; employees prevail on sale. Employees prevailed on a claim of failure to give the required 60-day notice of a plant closure under the Federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). The 8th Circuit held that the current employer was liable because its acquisition of the business was more than a sale of assets outside the scope of the Act. Day v. Celadon Trucking Service, Inc., 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 12365 (Minn. Ct. App. 2016) (unpublished).

• Wrongful discharge; mini FLSA violation. An employee may seek damages for being fired for refusing to comply with an employer’s requirement to share tips because the directive violates the Minnesota mini- Fair Labor Standards Act. The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that the employee may seek back pay and other damages for wrongful discharge. Burt v. Rackner, Inc. 882 N.W.2d 627 (8th Circ. 6/27/2016).

• Unpaid wages; lack of documentation. An employee’s claim for unpaid wages and unused accrued time off was rejected by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The employee failed to provide documentation of her services to warrant payment of a statutory penalty under Minn. Stat. §181.13. Gardner v. Accad Services, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 704 (Minn. Ct. App. 2016) (unpublished).

• No rehire claim; agreement upheld. A state employee failed in challenging the state’s refusal to rehire her after she resigned and signed a full and complete settlement agreement. The court of appeals held that the “clear and unambiguous” terms of the agreement did not obligate the state to rehire her, and a claim of an oral assurance that she could be rehired was barred by the parole evidence under Hunt v. State of Minnesota, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 646 (Minn. Ct. App. 2016) (unpublished).

• Unemployment compensation; two claims denied. The appellate court upheld denial of a pair of unemployment claims.

A comment about killing a co-worker resulted in disqualification of the claimant’s assertion that he was only joking. Brennan v. Lubrication Techs, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 700 (Minn. Ct. App. 2016) (unpublished).

An employee who engaged in a competitive business while employed was not entitled to benefits. Anderson v. YUM Design, LLC, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 722 (Minn. Ct. App. 2016) (unpublished).

As published in Bench & Bar of Minnesota.