Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against the county, alleging that the reasons for his termination were racial discrimination and unlawful retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the county. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court must reevaluate plaintiff's comparators evidence under the new standard that the court announced in Lewis v. City of Union City, 918 F.3d 1213 (11th Cir. 2019) (en banc), which was decided after the district court ruled this case. Therefore, the court vacated in part and remanded for reconsideration. The court affirmed the district court's judgment that, in the absence of valid comparators, plaintiff failed to establish a retaliation claim regarding (1) the actions of Lieutenant Ricelli in 2013, (2) the discipline he suffered from Captain White in 2015, and (3) Director Patterson's decision to terminate him in 2015. The court also affirmed the district court's ruling that barred plaintiff from deposing the Miami-Dade County mayor regarding plaintiff's section 1983 claim. View "Johnson v. Miami Dade County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the False Claims Act (FCA) and Georgia law, alleging that the county had engaged in a fraudulent scheme related to billing for ambulance services and had fired him in retaliation for his whistleblowing. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment to the county on the FCA claim. The district court concluded that although plaintiff had engaged in "protected conduct" he had not created a genuine issue of material fact that he had been fired because of that conduct. The Eleventh Circuit held that the but-for causation standard applies to claims under the antiretaliation provision of the FCA just as it does to the antiretaliation provision of Title VII and the antidiscrimination provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The court declined to apply the motivating factor standard of causation to the FCA, explaining that it did not want to use legislative history to get around the plain meaning of a statute's text. In this case, plaintiff failed to show that the harm would not have occurred but for his protected conduct. View "Nesbitt v. Candler County, Georgia" on Justia Law

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At issue was the word "retirement" in the Award Terms of stock options granted to plaintiff by his employer E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. Under the terms of the award, an employee who leaves the company "due to retirement" keeps the original expiration date of his stock options, but an employee who leaves for other reasons must exercise his stock options by his last day of employment. Applying Delaware law, the Eleventh Circuit held that an employee is eligible for retirement within the meaning of the Award Terms only upon satisfying both the age and years-of-service requirement. Therefore, plaintiff's 10 years of service with DuPont fell short of the years-of-service requirements within Section IV of the Pension Plan. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to DuPont. View "Bearden v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two African-American minimum-wage employees who work in Birmingham at a rate lower than the $10.10 prescribed by the City's minimum wage ordinance, filed suit alleging that Act No. 2016-18, which nullified the City's minimum-wage ordinance, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead of suing their employers, who were refusing to pay the $10.10 minimum wage, plaintiffs chose to file suit against the Alabama Attorney General. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiffs did not have Article III standing to sue the Attorney General, because they could not demonstrate that their alleged injuries were fairly traceable to his conduct, or that those injuries would be redressed by the declaratory and injunctive relief plaintiffs have requested. Because the employees lacked standing to sue, the court need not consider the merits of their equal protection claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and remanded to the panel. View "Lewis v. Governor of Alabama" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, a law firm and its partners, alleging claims for unpaid overtime and retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), breach of contract, and slander. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The court vacated the district court's determination that the overtime and breach of contract claims were barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel, holding that the district court did not have the benefit of Slater v. U.S. Steel Corp., 871 F.3d 1174 (11th Cir. 2017) (en banc) (Slater II), at the time of its ruling. On remand, the district court must apply Slater II's "all the facts and circumstances" test to determine plaintiff's intent when she made omissions in her bankruptcy and district court filings. Furthermore, the court held that it was error for the district court to ground judicial estoppel in the inconsistencies between plaintiff's initial and amended complaints. In regard to the retaliation claim, the court held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment to defendants, rejecting plaintiff's claim that defendants conspired with others in taking retaliatory actions against plaintiff's attorney. View "Smith v. Haynes & Haynes P.C." on Justia Law

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This consolidated appeal arose after Massage Envy’s stated reason for the termination of intervenor was its fear that she might contract and later develop Ebola due to her trip to Ghana. EEOC and intervenor appealed the entry of judgment for Massage Envy on their employment discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendments of 2009. The Eleventh Circuit held that, even construing the statute broadly, the terms of the ADA protect persons who experience discrimination because of a current, past, or perceived disability—not because of a potential future disability that a healthy person may experience later. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's final judgment in favor of Massage Envy. View "Lowe v. STME, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City, the police department, and others, alleging claims of disability and/or racial or gender discrimination. In regard to the disability discrimination claim, the Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff's evidence was insufficient to meet her prima facie burden of demonstrating that she was actually disabled, but was sufficient on whether she was regarded as disabled; the district court erred in holding that plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence that she was a qualified individual; plaintiff met her prima facie burden of demonstrating that the city discriminated against her because of her perceived disability; and plaintiff produced sufficient evidence that she was not a direct threat. In regard to the race and gender discrimination claims, the court held that the evidence of arbitrary personnel decisions surrounding plaintiff's termination, the pretextual justifications offered for the same, the differing treatment of her white male colleagues, and other evidence amounted to sufficient circumstantial evidence to create a triable issue of material fact on whether the police department's actions were discriminatory on the basis of race and/or gender. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's municipal liability claim under 42 U.S.C. 1981 for the police chief's discriminatory actions as the final decisionmaker. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Lewis v. City of Union City" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint alleging that defendant demoted plaintiff because of his multiple sclerosis in violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court weighed the balancing factors to determine whether an entity acts as an arm of the state entitled to sovereign immunity, and held that, when defendant demoted plaintiff, it did not act as an arm of the state and was thus not entitled to sovereign immunity. In this case, the Alabama Supreme Court previously held that a communications district was not an arm of the state; there was no evidence that the State of Alabama exerts any control over the particular function at issue here; where the entity derives its funds, did not support granting sovereign immunity; and Alabama would not be financially responsible for a judgment against defendant. View "McAdams v. The Jefferson County 911 Emergency Communications District, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of defendant in an action alleging unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In this case, plaintiff alleged that her employer failed to pay her over 700 hours of overtime for her work at his law office. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 to alter or amend the judgment where the evidence was newly discovered, the outcome of the trial would have been the same, or there were no manifest errors made by the district court; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying relief under Rule 60 based on a newly discovered email; the district court did not misapply the burden-shifting framework set out in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., when it found that plaintiff did not prove she worked overtime; and the civil plain error rule barred the court's review of the district court's sua sponte failure to recuse. View "Jenkins v. S. David Anton, PA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the county and others, alleging that they violated her First Amendment rights by retaliating against her for engaging in protected speech regarding medical clearance decisions for firefighter applicants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and denial of reconsideration, holding that plaintiff spoke as an employee and not as a private citizen. In this case, plaintiff worked under contract with the county and, for fifteen years, was the primary person responsible for determining whether firefighter applicants were medically qualified. View "King v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law