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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Warren, a manufacturer of unitary electric (UE) heaters for HVAC systems, filed suit against its competitor, Tutco and against a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), UL. Warren's claims are based on its allegations that, UL certified Tutco's UE heaters as compliant, even though the heaters are not actually compliant. Warren sought damages and injunctive relief under the Lanham Act for false advertising and contributory false advertising, damages under the common law of unfair competition, and declaratory and injunctive relief under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA). The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Tutco's and UL's joint motion to dismiss. In this case, Warren calls UL's authorization to Tutco to use UL's mark, and Tutco's advertisements to that effect, "misrepresentations," but it really means nothing more than (by its lights) a "misinterpretation" of UL 1995. However, it does not follow, that even a misinterpretation of UL 1995 is a falsity -- or a "deceptive act" within the meaning of the Lanham Act -- rather than a matter of opinion, provided it was made in good faith and in accordance with OSHA's criteria for independence, procedural regularity, etc. The court held that, because all of Warren's claims against UL and Tutco are based upon the same allegation of falsity, they fail for want of a misrepresentation or a deceptive act. View "Warren Technology, Inc. v. UL LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in Trees's favor on his hostile work environment and national origin discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Trees on plaintiff's national origin discrimination claim, holding that the claim fails as a matter of law where the supervisor's statement, although reprehensible, was not direct evidence that plaintiff was fired because of his national origin. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Trees on the hostile work environment claim, holding that plaintiff provided evidence sufficient to raise a material issue of fact as to whether the harassment was objectively severe or pervasive. In this case, plaintiff provided ample evidence that the harassment he faced was frequent; a reasonable jury could conclude that the harassment was sufficiently severe; the supervisor's conduct was sufficiently humiliating to support a hostile work environment claim; and, although more attenuated than typical interference-with-job-performance arguments, the court could not say on this record that plaintiff's on-the-job suicide attempt was wholly unrelated to his job performance. View "Soto Fernandez v. Trees, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her employer and its CEO for interference and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and for retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the employer on the FMLA claim, holding that plaintiff's visit to her counselor did not count as treatment by a health care provider under the statute. In regard to the Title VII claim against the employer, the court held that plaintiff failed to offer any evidence that the CEO knew she had complained about race or sex discrimination, and thus she cannot show a relationship between her firing and that protected activity. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to impeach the CEO's testimony or present circumstantial evidence of his knowledge beyond temporal proximity. Therefore, summary judgment was appropriate on this claim because a jury could find discrimination only based on speculation, rather than on evidence. Finally, plaintiff's section 1981 claims were abandoned on appeal. View "Martin v. Financial Asset Management Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Roper Pump and its affiliated companies, alleging a claim for retaliation and race discrimination in violation of Title VII. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Roper Pump on plaintiff's retaliation claim, holding that there was enough evidence in the record, when taken in a light most favorable to plaintiff, to support his claim that Roper Pump responded to a claim of race discrimination by conditioning continued employment on a release of claims and firing plaintiff for refusing to sign the release. However, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the race discrimination claim, agreeing with the trial court that plaintiff failed to proffer comparators that were similar in all material respects. View "Knox v. Roper Pump Co." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff asked her employer, Rural, for a temporary light-duty or dispatcher assignment for the duration of her pregnancy because her physician advised her to refrain from lifting more than 50 pounds while pregnant, Rural declined plaintiff's request for accommodation. Plaintiff filed suit against Rural, alleging discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's grant of Rural's motion for summary judgment, holding that the district court erroneously factored into the "similar in their ability or inability to work" evaluation the distinct, post-prima-facie-case consideration of Rural's purported legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for treating plaintiff and the non-pregnant employees differently. The court explained that neither a non-pregnant EMT who is limited to lifting 10 or 20 pounds nor a pregnant EMT who is restricted to lifting 50 pounds or less can lift the required 100 pounds to serve as an EMT. Consequently, neither can meet the lifting requirement and are thus the same in their "inability to work" as an EMT. The court held that plaintiff's prima facie requirement to establish that she was similarly situated to other employees in their ability or inability to work was satisfied. The court remanded for the district court to determine the remaining issues in the first instance. View "Durham v. Rural/Metro Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Worldplay on plaintiff's claim of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The court held that the district court erroneously applied the court's decision in Gowski v. Peake, 682 F.3d 1299, 1312 (11th Cir. 2012), and required plaintiff to show that the alleged retaliation was sufficiently pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment. However, the proper standard in a retaliation case is the one set out by the Supreme Court in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 57 (2006), where the retaliation is material if it well might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. In this case, the court held that a jury must decide plaintiff's retaliation claim and thus remanded for a jury trial. View "Monaghan v. Worldpay US, Inc." on Justia 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