Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Petitioner is an experienced airline pilot. When he was interviewing for a new position, he was asked to take a urine test. Unable to provide an adequate sample, Petitioner left the site. Under FAA guidelines, walking out before providing a drug test sample is considered a refusal. The potential employer reported Petitioner's refusal to the FAA. The FAA sought to revoke Petitioner's pilot and medical certifications. However, at a hearing in front of the National Safety Transportation Board, the Board agreed with the FAA in sustaining the refusal, but reduced Petitioner's sanction to a 180-suspension.The D.C. Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review, finding that by walking out before providing a sufficient urine sample, Petitioner's conduct was properly considered a refusal. In so holding, the court noted that the trial court credited the FAA witnesses while questioning the veracity of Petitioner's testimony.The D.C. Circuit also granted the FAA's cross-petition, finding that the Board was required to defer to the FAA under these circumstances. View "Ydil Pham v. NTSB" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, the Fast Food Workers Committee and Service Employees International Union, sought review of the NLRB’s (“Board”) approval of the settlement agreements between the Board’s General Counsel on the one hand, and McDonald’s and a group of McDonald’s franchisees on the other. Amongst Petitioners' many objections, their primary concern is the agreements’ failure to determine whether McDonald’s is a joint employer with its franchisees. Another significant objection is directed to the participation of one of the Board’s Members in this decision. It is claimed that he should have been recused   The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, finding that the Board did not abuse its discretion in issuing its order approving the settlements and that Petitioners’ recusal argument was not properly presented.Petitioners argued that Board was arbitrary and capricious in approving the settlements, in light of the unions’ objections. The court held that the Board acted well within its discretion in approving the settlements, given the Board’s discretion to approve settlements and its careful and comprehensive analysis of the reasonableness of the settlements. Petitioners also contended that the Board’s order was invalid because a member should have recused himself. The court held that Petitioners’ did not meet their obligation to make clear that they were bringing a constitutional challenge before the NLRB and the court. View "Fast Food Workers Committee v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Plaintiff filed several employment claims against her employer. In 2013, the parties reached a settlement agreement. However, before the parties reached their agreement, Plaintiff resigned in lieu of termination. Plaintiff then filed a subsequent claim against her employer, alleging retaliation.The D.C. Circuit held that the initial settlement agreement did not preclude Plaintiff’s ability to bring a retaliation claim. The parties’ initial agreement released Plaintiff’s employer for “all claims” related to her employment; however, it also carved out various exceptions, including Plaintiff’s ability to pursue any claims she raised in her separate grievance, including her claim under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The D.C. Circuit remanded the case for the district court to determine if Plaintiff properly presented the claim for consideration. View "Karin Weng v. Martin J. Walsh" on Justia Law

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The NLRB affirmed an ALJ‘s finding that Wendt engaged in numerous unfair labor practices under the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (3), (5) based on five incidents and actions.The D.C. Circuit affirmed with respect to: Wendt’s plant manager’s denial of an employee’s request for the presence of a union representative during questioning that resulted in a suspension; the reassignment of a Union bargaining team member to a lower level of work and the denial of his requests for overtime following a temporary layoff during negotiations; Wendt’s promotion of three Union employees into plant supervisor positions without hiring anyone to fill the vacant unit roles while requiring the new supervisors to continue doing some of the unit work from their previous roles; and, following the Union’s certification, Wendt’s delay of evaluation of unit employees and accompanying wage increases for about six months. The court reversed with respect to the temporary layoffs during bargaining; the NLRB did not adequately address Wendt’s “past practices” argument. View "Wendt Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 authorizes USPS to “classify and fix the compensation and benefits of all officers and employees,” 39 U.S.C. 1003(a), to “provide adequate and reasonable differentials in rates of pay between employees in the clerk and carrier grades . . . and supervisory and other managerial personnel.” USPS must “achieve and maintain compensation for its . . . employees comparable to the rates and types of compensation paid in the private sector of the economy” and must allow organizations representing supervisory and other managerial employees “to participate directly in the planning and development of pay policies and schedules” relating to supervisory and managerial employees.The Association, a recognized organization of supervisory personnel, challenged USPS’s adoption of the 2016–2019 pay package for “Field” Executive and Administrative Schedule personnel. The district court dismissed the complaint, finding that the cited provisions state “policy goals.” not mandatory and enforceable directives.The D.C. Circuit reversed. The Association plausibly alleged that USPS exceeded its statutory authority by failing to institute “some differential” in pay for supervisors and by failing to demonstrate that it set its compensation levels by reference, inter alia, to the compensation paid” in the private sector. USPS failed to comply with the Act by refusing to consult with the Association on compensation for “Area” and “Headquarters” employees; by refusing to consult regarding postmasters; and by failing to provide the Association with reasons for rejecting its recommendations. View "National Association of Postal Supervisors v. United States Postal Service" on Justia Law

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In 2020, the FLRA adopted a new threshold for when collective bargaining is required. Under the new standard, the duty to bargain is triggered only if a workplace change has "a substantial impact on a condition of employment." Labor unions challenged the FLRA's decision to alter the bargaining threshold, maintaining that the FLRA's new standard is both inconsistent with the governing statute and insufficiently explained.The DC Circuit held that the FLRA's decision to abandon its de minimis exception in favor of a substantial-impact threshold was not sufficiently reasoned, and thus is arbitrary and capricious in violation of section 706 of the Administrative Procedure Act. In this case, the cursory policy statement that the FLRA issued to justify its choice to abandon thirty-five years of precedent promoting and applying the de minimis standard and to adopt the previously rejected substantial-impact test is arbitrary and capricious. Therefore, the court granted the labor unions' petitions for review and vacated the FLRA's policy statement. View "American Federation of Government Employees v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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Unions challenged a Policy Statement of the Federal Labor Relations Authority that announced for the first time that zipper clauses (provisions that foreclose midterm bargaining) are mandatory bargaining subjects. The Authority determined that, if an agency and a union intractably disagree over a zipper clause proposal, the agency may bring the proposal to the impasses panel—which has the authority to put it (or a different clause reflecting what it determines to be a better resolution) into the parties’ term agreement. Before 2020, the Authority had not issued any Policy Statement in over 35 years.The D.C. Circuit vacated the Policy Statement. The Authority structured its consideration of the zipper clause question in two steps, first holding that the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute does not entitle employees to demand midterm bargaining even when the parties’ agreement is silent on the matter. The Authority then relied on that holding as “necessary” to its conclusion that proposed contractual zipper clauses expressly foreclosing midterm bargaining are mandatory bargaining subjects. The first holding was arbitrary. The Authority’s errors “include miscasting Supreme Court precedent, relying on conclusory assertions, and mischaracterizing its dramatic shift of the bargaining baseline as allowing the parties to resolve the issue.” View "American Federation of Government Employees v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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Breiterman was subjected to three disciplinary actions imposed by her employer, the U.S. Capitol Police. She was suspended after commenting to fellow employees that women had to “sleep with someone” to get ahead. She was later placed on administrative leave and ultimately demoted for leaking a picture of an unattended Police firearm to the press. Although Breiterman admitted to this misconduct, she sued the Police, alleging sex discrimination, retaliation in violation of the Congressional Accountability Act, 2 U.S.C. 1301, and unlawful retaliation for speech protected by the First Amendment.The D.C. Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Police. The Police provided legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for suspending Breiterman, placing her on administrative leave during an investigation into the media leak, and demoting her from a supervisory position; nothing in the record would allow a reasonable jury to conclude that those reasons were a pretext for discrimination or retaliation. Supervisors are entrusted with greater authority than officers, held to a higher standard, and disciplined more severely than officers for similar violations, so Breiterman’s nonsupervisory comparators are too dissimilar to draw any inference of discriminatory treatment. Even assuming some procedural deviation occurred, the deviations were not so irregular as to indicate unlawful discrimination. View "Breiterman v. United States Capitol Police" on Justia Law

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Cadillac of Naperville's service mechanics went on strike in 2017. The National Labor Relations Board found that the dealership responded to the strike unlawfully (29 U.S.C. 158(a)) by discharging one mechanic for his union activity, threatening to retaliate against several mechanics, and refusing to bargain with the mechanics’ union. The mechanic, Bisbikis, was one of six mechanics permanently replaced during the strike and had approached the dealership’s owner about certain worker complaints. The owner had “warned” Bisbikis that “things would not be the same” if the mechanics decided to strike. After the strike settled, the owner stated that Bisbikis was a ringleader of the strike and he no longer wanted to employ Bisbikis. Later, the owner fired Bisbikis, assertedly for insubordination. The owner subsequently sought to restrict union access to Naperville premises.At the NLRB’s request, the D.C. Circuit remanded the discharge issue for the Board to apply its intervening decision changing the framework under which it assesses alleged retaliation in mixed-motive cases. Under that decision, the NLRB bears the initial burden of proving that union activity was a “motivating factor” in an adverse action against an employee; if it meets that burden, the employer must prove that it “would have taken the same action in the absence of the unlawful motive.” The court rejected the dealership’s other challenges. View "Cadillac of Naperville, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The San Antonio Symphony contracts to perform most of its shows at the Tobin Center. After the Tobin Center barred the Symphony’s musicians from distributing leaflets on the premises, the musicians’ union filed an unfair labor practices charge. The leaflets informed patrons attending a ballet performance that they would not hear a live symphony and encouraged them to insist on live music. The National Labor Relations Board revised its approach and concluded that a property owner has the right to exclude from its property off-duty contractor employees seeking access to the property to engage in Section 7 activity unless those employees work both regularly and exclusively on the property and the property owner fails to show that they have one or more reasonable non-trespassory alternative means to communicate their message.The D.C. Circuit remanded. In aiming to identify those contractor employees with a sufficiently strong connection to the property to warrant the grant of access rights, the Board’s approach was arbitrary, both as to the condition that contractor employees work “regularly” on the property and as to the condition that they also work “exclusively” on the property. On remand, the Board may decide whether to proceed with a version of the test it announced and sought to apply in this case or to develop a new test. View "Local 23, American Federation of Musicians v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law