summary judgment

What if an employee with bipolar disorder is aggressive and disruptive? Does the ADA prevent an employer from firing that employee?

Posted on March 20, 2015

Potentially not, depending on the circumstances, according to a recent case from Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Walz v. Ameriprise Financial, Inc., Case No. 14-2495 (March 9, 2015). In this case, the plaintiff Marissa Walz worked for Ameriprise in a job which required good people and communication skills, along with the ability to work well in a team and exercise good time management. Walz’s bipolar disorder caused her to interrupt meetings, disturb coworkers and disrespect her supervisor. Walz’s supervisor had repeated discussions with her about her behavior and eventually issued her a formal warning. Walz applied for FMLA leave which was granted by the third party that administers these requests for Ameriprise. Walz never told Ameriprise of the reason for her FMLA leave. When Walz returned to work, provided a doctor’s note stating that she had been stabilized on her medication. Upon her return, Walz also was given and signed Ameriprise’s Individual Treatment Policy (addressing disability discrimination and the process for requesting accommodation).…

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District Court Has Jurisdiction over Retaliation Claim Related to Prior Charge, Even Prior Charge that was Untimely

Posted on October 31, 2014

The Fourth Circuit recently ruled that the district court properly ruled that it had jurisdiction over a claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII asserted by an Old Dominion University professor, even though the retaliation claim was not contained within her initial EEOC charge and that charge was, in fact, untimely. Hentosh v. Old Dominion University, No. 13-2037 (4th Cir. September 24, 2014). The Fourth Circuit’s ruling was based on the fact that the retaliation was reasonably related to the initial charge and its own prior decision that a claim for retaliation can be asserted for the first time in federal court.…

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Ninth Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on Issue of Whether Policy Prohibiting Male Deputies from Supervising Female Inmates is Discrimination

Posted on August 8, 2014

In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit found that there were material issues of fact in dispute precluding summary judgment in favor of a county where male deputies claimed a policy prohibiting male deputies from supervising female inmates in the housing units of the jails operated by the County was unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title VII. Anderson v. City & Cnty of San Francisco, No. 11-16746 (9th Cir. July 2, 2014).…

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Right to FMLA Leave Not Forfeited Based on Failure to Provide Anticipated Duration

Posted on July 25, 2014

If an employee properly requests FMLA leave, but fails to advise her employer of how long she plans to be out, is the employer obligated to hold the position open? Late last month, the Seventh Circuit decided that yes, in a situation involving unforeseeable leave, the employer is still obligated to allow the employee to come back to work, provided she has not used more than 12 weeks of leave, despite her failure to provide information regarding the duration of her leave. See Gienapp v. Harbor Crest, et al., No. 14-1053 (7th Cir. June 24, 2014).…

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Eleventh Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment Ruling in Discrimination Case—Reminding District Court that in Status-based Discrimination Claims, But-for Causation Not Required

Posted on May 30, 2014

This week, the Eleventh Circuit issued a ruling in Barthelus v. G4S Government Solutions, Inc., No. 13-14121 (May 27, 2014), reversing the district court’s award of summary judgment to an employer and finding that there was a material issue of fact regarding whether the employers’ grounds for termination were merely pretext. In so ruling, the Eleventh Circuit pointed out that the claims of the plaintiff were in the “status-based category of discrimination,” and thus the employee was not required to show that the causal link between the injury and wrong was so close that the injury would not have occurred but for the act. Instead, the plaintiff must only show that the motive to discriminate was one of the motives, even if accompanied by other, lawful motives. Barthelus, p. 16.…

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Burden of Showing Materially Adverse Action in Title VII Retaliation Claim Less Onerous Than Required to Show Adverse Employment Action for Purposes in Title VII Discrimination Claim

Posted on April 25, 2014

In its recent decision in Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, et al., No. 13-1640 (March 13, 2014), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reminded us that the type of adverse action required to support a retaliation claim under Title VII is very different than that necessary to support a claim for discrimination under Title VII. In Laster, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment ruling as it pertained to the plaintiff’s Title VII retaliation claim on the grounds that the plaintiff had sufficiently stated a claim for retaliation in violation of Title VII when he had identified a number of ways in which a reasonable worker could have been dissuaded from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.…

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Tenth Circuit Tackles Supervisor Issue

Posted on February 28, 2014

In Vance v. Ball State Univ., 133 S.Ct. 2434, 2441 (2013), the Supreme Court resolved a conflict among the circuits regarding what level of authority a harasser must have in order to qualify as a supervisor under Title VII in the context of a claim of sexual harassment.  However, there remain questions as to how to apply the Supreme Court’s directive in Vance.  Just this week, the Tenth Circuit addressed some of these issues in Kramer v. Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office, et al., No. 12-4058 (February 25, 2014), finding that a bailiff’s immediate supervisor who had engaged in egregious acts of sexual harassment toward her could be a supervisor under Title VII.…

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No Adverse Employment Action = No Claim for Retaliation

Posted on February 21, 2014

Where employee voluntarily quit her job at a restaurant in anticipation of a transfer to a different location that never came to fruition, she has not suffered an adverse employment action and thus has no claim for retaliation.   Last week, in Andrews v. CBOCS West, Inc., et al., No. 12-3339 (7th Cir. 2014), the Seventh Circuit ruled that Cracker Barrel was entitled to summary judgment where a waitress at Cracker Barrel had elected to quit with the idea that she would transfer to another location, despite her assertion of numerous unsavory facts regarding discriminatory conduct on the part of her supervisor (and a lack of responsiveness to complaints about this conduct from the company).…

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Retaliation Claims–Beware the Trickle-Down Effect of the “Wishes of the King”

Posted on January 15, 2014

Generally speaking, when an employee clearly violates established policy, employers feel pretty comfortable terminating that employee, regardless of his past complaints of discrimination or about overtime, particularly where other employees have been fired for violating the same policy.  Not so fast, warns the First Circuit in Travers v. Flight Services & Systems, Inc., 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 24706 (1st Cir. 2013). Joseph Travers was a skycap employed by Flight Services & Systems, Inc., which provided services to JetBlue.  Travers filed a lawsuit alleging Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations against JetBlue in April 2008 and then amended the complaint to include his employer as a defendant about a year later.  The CEO of Flight Services was very vocal in his disdain for Travers and the legal action he had taken and, according to Travers’ supervisor, repeatedly told the supervisor to get rid of Travers and talk him into dropping the lawsuit.  In September 2010, while the motion to conditionally certify the FLSA case in Travers’ case was still pending, Flight Services received a complaint about Travers from a customer.  She reported that Travers had solicited her for a tip.  Flight Services’ employee handbook specifically bars the solicitation of tips.  Travers was first suspended pending investigation and then terminated by a general manager, with the approval of the Director of Human Resources.  Travers filed another lawsuit asserting retaliation.…

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It Isn’t All About the Ultimate Decisionmaker—Fourth Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment in Favor of Employer in ADEA Case

Posted on January 8, 2014

As employers, we often focus on what knowledge was in the hands of the ultimate decisionmaker at the time a crucial employment decision is made.  However, as the Fourth Circuit reminds us in its decision in Harris v. Powhatan County School Board, No. 12-2091, the knowledge and intent of those who have the power and ability to influence those decisionmakers also must be considered and can support a claim for discrimination. Alexander Harris was a seventy-two-year-old African American custodial worker whose position as a custodial worker for the Powhatan County School System was eliminated in 2009 after fifty-two years of employment.…

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