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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, Alfa, alleging disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff contends that, although Alfa claims she was terminated because of automation of some of her job responsibilities, she was actually terminated because of the high costs to Alfa in treating her multiple sclerosis (MS).The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Alfa, concluding that plaintiff was denied full discovery. In this case, Alfa did not demonstrate a burden or abuse of process sufficient to justify such limitations on discovery, and especially in light of the relevant nature of the information sought by plaintiff. Therefore, the district court committed a clear error of judgment by denying plaintiff the opportunity to depose the then-Executive Vice President of Human Resources. View "Akridge v. Alfa Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the school district, claiming discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act; interference with her Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights; and retaliation in violation of all three statutes. Principally, plaintiff alleged that, in ending her employment, the school district discriminated against her because she suffers from major depressive disorder and retaliated against her for asserting her statutory rights.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the school district. The district court concluded that the school district had terminated plaintiff's employment because of her conduct—the threats she made against her own life and the lives of others—not because she had major depressive disorder or because she had participated in statutorily protected activity. In regard to plaintiff's disability discrimination claims under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, the court ultimately concluded that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the school district's proffered reasons for terminating her employment were pretextual. In regard to plaintiff's retaliation claims, the court concluded that, besides the temporal proximity between when plaintiff asserted her ADA rights and when the school district asked her to resign, no evidence suggests that the school district's stated reasons for ending her employment were merely an excuse to cover up retaliation. In regard to the FMLA interference claim, the court concluded that plaintiff cites nothing from the record to show that the school district's decision to end her employment related in any way to her decision to take FMLA leave. View "Todd v. Fayette County School District" on Justia Law

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Statewide harvests and hauls fruit from about 1,500 fields for Florida farmers. It does not own any of the lands it harvests. In 2014-2017, Statewide employed mostly temporary foreign guest workers as its seasonal harvest workers, through the federal H-2A program, which requires a labor contractor to provide workers with housing, either three meals a day or “free and convenient cooking and kitchen facilities,” and other basic housing amenities including laundry facilities. Statewide provided its workers with cooking facilities instead of meals and with transportation from housing to a grocery store, laundromat, and bank. Statewide employed Ramirez and Santana as crew leaders during the harvest seasons; they also drove the workers to and from housing and the grocery store, laundromat, and bank. These weekly trips lasted approximately four hours. Ramirez and Santana worked up to 80 hours a week. Neither received overtime compensation.They sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, for unpaid overtime compensation for the driving trips. Statewide argued that those activities fell under the agricultural work exemption from the overtime requirements, section 213(b)(12). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in favor of the crew leaders. Statewide is not a farmer; it “did not own, lease, or control the farms or crops harvested. To be exempt from the overtime requirements, the driving trips must have been “performed . . . on a farm.” They occurred off a farm and were not physically tied to a farm. View "Ramirez v. Statewide Harvesting & Hauling, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing plaintiffs' Title VII retaliation claims against Bradley Arant and grant of summary judgment to Marion Bank on the Title VII retaliation claims. Bradley Arant is an Alabama law firm that represented the Bank in litigation related to this case. Plaintiffs are related to Ragan Youngblood, a former Bank employee who was hired in February 2008 and fired seven months later, in September 2008. Ragan was the personal assistant to the Bank's president and CEO, Conrad Taylor. After Ragan was fired, she filed an EEOC charge alleging that Taylor had sexually harassed her and retaliated against her for complaining about that harassment. Plaintiffs claim that the Bank and the law firm took adverse action against them in retaliation for Ragan's protected conduct.Pursuant to Thompson v. N. Am. Stainless, LP, 562 U.S. 170, 174–75 (2011), the court concluded that plaintiffs must meet two prerequisites to even get out of the starting gate on a third-party Title VII retaliation claim against the Bank. In regard to plaintiffs' retaliation claim based on litigation filed by the firm on the Bank's behalf, and assuming the viability of plaintiffs' claim, the court assumed without deciding that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiffs qualified under Thompson as proper third-party retaliation claimants. The court concluded that summary judgment is warranted for the Bank based on the McDonnell Douglas standard. In this case, plaintiffs have failed to produce evidence sufficient to support a reasonable inference that but for Ragan's claim of sexual harassment, the Bank would not have engaged in the litigation that plaintiffs characterize as excessive.In regard to plaintiffs' claims based on the Bank's decision to stop referring legal work to Plaintiff Greg, the court assumed without deciding that his third-party claim can proceed. Analyzing the claim under the McDonnell Douglas framework, the court concluded that the Bank articulated a neutral, nonretaliatory reason for no longer referring legal work to Greg based on a conflict of interest. Furthermore, Greg has failed to produce any evidence of pretext. Finally, in regard to plaintiffs' claims against the law firm, the court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed these claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) where plaintiffs failed to allege an employment relationship between themselves and the firm. View "Tolar v. Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit sua sponte vacated its previous opinion and substituted the following opinion.These appeals arose from a Title VII action filed by four ultrasound technologists against the Secretary, alleging that their supervisors and coworkers retaliated against them and subjected them to a hostile work environment at the Tampa VA because they engaged in protected EEOC activity. One plaintiff also alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her sex. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Secretary. Because two intervening decisions changed the law applicable to plaintiffs' discrete retaliation claims and retaliatory hostile work environment claims, the court remanded those claims to the district court with the instruction that it analyze the claims consistent with the intervening decisions. Because the intervening decisions did not, in the court's judgment, affect the resolution of the sex-based hostile work environment claim in this case, the court considered that claim alone and affirmed the district court's decision to enter summary judgment for the Secretary.In this case, the court concluded as an initial matter that most of the named co-worker's conduct lacks the necessary sexual or other gender-related connotations to be actionable sex discrimination. The court explained that nothing in the record allows the conclusion that the coworker's conduct had anything to do with plaintiff's sex; the context surrounding the coworker's inappropriate touching of plaintiff shows that the touching was not sex based; and there is no evidence suggesting that the angry looks, harsh words, and silent treatment that the coworker gave plaintiff were influenced by plaintiff's sex. Even if the coworker's conduct was based on plaintiff's sex, her claim would still fail because the conduct is insufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of plaintiff's employment. View "Tonkyro v. Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment to AMR in a Title VII action brought by plaintiff, alleging failure to accommodate his religious requirement, discrimination on the basis of religion, and retaliation for filing a discrimination claim. Plaintiff's action stemmed from AMR's refusal to allow him to work emergency transports with his goatee, which he grew as part of his practice of Rastafarianism.In regard to plaintiff's disparate-treatment claims based on religion, the court concluded that plaintiff forfeited any "convincing mosaic" argument in support of his traditional religious disparate-treatment discrimination claim. Furthermore, plaintiff made no other argument to support that version of his disparate-treatment discrimination claim. In regard to plaintiff's religious-discrimination claim based on AMR's alleged failure to provide plaintiff with a reasonable accommodation of his religious practice of wearing a beard, the court concluded that AMR offered plaintiff a reasonable accommodation by providing him with an opportunity to maintain his beard and to work on the non-emergency-transport side of its operations, for which DeKalb County's facial-hair policy did not apply. The panel explained that his terms and conditions of employment would not have been affected by the accommodation AMR offered. In regard to the retaliation claim, the record indicates that the but-for cause of plaintiff's termination was AMR's belief that he had given an untrue answer on his employment application. Therefore, his retaliation claim necessarily fails. View "Bailey v. Metro Ambulance Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff seriously injured her knee while at work, Hospital Housekeeping told her nothing about her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), instead handling the injury solely as a workers' compensation claim. Hospital Housekeeping subsequently discharged plaintiff after she could not perform the essential-functions test before returning to work. Plaintiff filed suit for interference under the FMLA and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Hospital Housekeeping.The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff was entitled to FMLA rights; plaintiff demonstrated that Hospital Housekeeping denied her a leave benefit under the FMLA where it did not give her any FMLA notice whatsoever and thus failed to satisfy its notice obligations; and a material issue of fact exists over whether an uninterrupted twelve-week FMLA leave period would have made a difference to whether plaintiff could have passed her essential-functions test and returned to work. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's entry of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ramji v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC" on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded on plaintiff's age discrimination and gender discrimination claims, affirming the Title VII retaliation and hostile work environment claims. Plaintiff sought rehearing, arguing that the Supreme Court's decision in her case also undermined the court's Trask-based rejection of her Title VII retaliation claim and that an intervening 11th Circuit decision, Monaghan v. Worldpay US, Inc., 955 F.3d 855 (11th Cir. 2020), gutted the precedent on which the court had relied in rejecting her hostile work environment claim.The Eleventh Circuit held that the Supreme Court's decision in plaintiff's case undermined Trask v. Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, 822 F.3d 1179 (11th Cir. 2016), to the point of abrogation and that the standard that the Court articulated there now controls cases arising under Title VII's nearly identical text. The court also held that Monaghan clarified the court's law governing what the court called "retaliatory-hostile-work-environment" claims, and that the standard for such claims is, as the court said there, the less onerous "might have dissuaded a reasonable worker" test articulated in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006), and Crawford v. Carroll, 529 F.3d 961 (11th Cir. 2008), rather than the more stringent "severe or pervasive" test found in Gowski v. Peake, 682 F.3d 1299 (11th Cir. 2012). Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's Title VII retaliation and hostile work environment claims and remanded for the district court to consider those claims under the proper standards. View "Babb v. Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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These appeals arose from a Title VII action filed by four ultrasound technologists against the Secretary, alleging that their supervisors and coworkers retaliated against them and subjected them to a hostile work environment at the Tampa VA because they engaged in protected EEOC activity. One plaintiff also alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her sex. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Secretary.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court's entry of summary judgment was proper as to plaintiffs' discrete retaliation claims. Likewise, the court reached the same conclusion about the one employee's sex-based hostile work environment claim. However, after summary judgment was entered in this case, Monaghan v. Worldpay U.S. Inc., 955 F.3d 855, 862 (11th Cir. 2020), clarified that retaliatory hostile work environment claims are not governed by the "severe or pervasive" standard applied by the district court here. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order as to that claim and directed the district court to analyze the claim in light of Monaghan. View "Tonkyro v. Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that evidence that an employee makes three to five phone calls per week to out-of-state customers and vendors provides a legally sufficient basis for a reasonable jury to find that the employee falls within the coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court vacated the district court's judgment concluding otherwise and remanded for further proceedings. In this case, there is no contention that plaintiff produced goods for commerce and a rational jury could have found that plaintiff was engaged in commerce. Therefore, plaintiff was covered under the FLSA. View "St. Elien v. All County Environmental Services, Inc." on Justia Law