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Category Archives: Case Summaries

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Fifth Circuit Holds Nonemployee Lacks Claim but Employee Can Recover Emotional Distress Damages in FLSA Retaliation Suit

Posted in Case Summaries, Retaliation, Wage & Hour
The Fifth Circuit recently held that a plaintiff-employee in an FLSA retaliation claim can recover damages for emotional distress but that the statute does not provide a retaliation cause of action for a nonemployee spouse. In Pineda v. JTCH Apartments, LLC, an employee of the apartment complex who did maintenance work around the property and… Continue Reading

Texas Court Holds Employees on FMLA Leave Not Qualified to Receive Unemployment Benefits

Posted in Case Summaries, Unemployment
In a Texas case of first impression, Fort Worth Court of Appeals held that an employee on FMLA leave of absence is not entitled to receipt of state unemployment benefits reversing the Texas Workforce Commission’s administrative decision.  In Texas Workforce Commission v. Wichita County, Texas, a county employee applied for state unemployment benefits when she started FMLA… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Holds Constructive Discharge Administrative Filing Deadlines Commence When Plaintiff Gives Notice of Resignation

Posted in Case Summaries, Discrimination, Retaliation
Plaintiffs and employers often dispute when an employee’s time period for filing a charge of discrimination commences.  Plaintiffs argue that it commences on the date the adverse action is effective (e.g., the termination date) where employers often argue that it commences earlier when the employee is advised of the decision (i.e., notice of termination that is effective… Continue Reading

HR Directors Beware: You Too Can be Sued for FMLA Violations

Posted in Case Summaries, Human Resources, Leave of Absence
A recent case from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals should remind HR Directors (and supervisors) to be particularly vigilant in handling employee FMLA leaves of absence. In Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, the appellate court reversed a trial court victory for the employer and the two individual supervisors (one of whom was the HR… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Refuses to Enforce Illusory Handbook Arbitration Provision

Posted in Arbitration, Case Summaries
It’s a rare day when a Texas state court or federal court sitting in Texas refuses to enforce an arbitration agreement.  The Texas law is well-developed on this issue and the table is heavily tilted in favor of arbitration.  Consequently, most employer arbitration programs in Texas are enforced.  However, a recent opinion from the Fifth… Continue Reading

Houston Court of Appeals Holds that Allegation of Constructive Discharge Must be Included in the Charge of Discrimination

Posted in Case Summaries, Race, Retaliation, Sex and Gender
In an opinion likely to prove useful to employers defending a termination based on a constructive discharge theory, a Houston Court of Appeals held that a resigning employee whose charge of discrimination lacks an allegation of constructive discharge, fails to exhaust his administrative remedies on that theory.  In court of appeals opinion, Parker was an African American pharmacy supervisor for the… Continue Reading

Court of Appeals Holds that Notes of Counsel’s Communications with EPL Carrier are Privileged

Posted in Case Summaries
In an important case for any employer that has Employment Practices Liability (EPL) coverage (and lawyers that represent clients with EPL insurance), the Dallas Court of Appeals recently held that the communications between an employer’s in-house counsel and its EPL insurance adjuster were privileged communications and exempted from discovery.  In In re Texas Health Resources, the… Continue Reading

Texas Statutory Damages Caps Need Not Be Pled As Affirmative Defense

Posted in Case Summaries, Discrimination, Harassment, Retaliation
In a non-employment case that is nonetheless important for labor and employment lawyers, the Texas Supreme Court has held that statutory damage caps under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code need not be plead as an affirmative defense by the defendant.  While the case applies to the damage caps of Chapter 41 of the… Continue Reading

Texas Supreme Court Reverses Million Dollar Verdict in Retaliation Case

Posted in Case Summaries, Retaliation
Last week the Texas Supreme Court reversed a $1 million jury verdict in a retaliation case arising under state law. In San Antonio Water Systems v. Nichols, the court held that the former employee’s confrontation of a male executive about his repeated lunch invitations to other female coworkers occurring three years before the plaintiff’s termination… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Resolves Intra-Circuit Split on Important ADA Issue

Posted in Case Summaries, Disability, Discrimination
Last month the Fifth Circuit resolved an intra-Circuit split on the appropriate prima face case that should be used in a discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In EEOC v. LHC Group, Inc., the EEOC brought suit on behalf of a home health field nurse who was terminated after she was rendered unable… Continue Reading

Texas Supreme Court Provides Defendants with Halloween Discovery Treat; Not Trick

Posted in Case Summaries, Discrimination
Last Friday, Halloween, the Texas Supreme Court delivered defendants a “treat” in the form of a mandamus opinion articulating the standard for when discovery requests seeking information related to claims other than the plaintiff’s claims crosses the line from seeking relevant information into an impermissible fishing expedition. In In re National Lloyds Insurance Company, the… Continue Reading

I Quit! Constructive Discharge Serves as Substitute for Adverse Employment Action

Posted in Age, Case Summaries, Discrimination
An essential element of most employment discrimination claims is that the employee suffered an adverse employment action. An employee who resigns often has difficulty making out a prima facie case of discrimination. An exception to this general rule is where the employee suffers a constructive discharge. Stated another way, where the employee can prove that the employer,… Continue Reading

Employee Wins Reversal of Religious Discrimination Defeat at the Fifth Circuit

Posted in Case Summaries, Reasonable Accommodation, Religion
Last week I wrote about a religious discrimination case where an employer snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This week, we have a Fifth Circuit opinion where the court took away an employer’s victory in another religious discrimination case and sent the case back to the trial court… Continue Reading

Texas Supreme Court Holds that Forfeiture Provision In Incentive Plan Not A Noncompete

Posted in Case Summaries, Noncompetes and Restrictive Covenants
I wrote about the case of Drennen v. Exxon Mobile over a year ago.  Drennen was the case of the Exxon executive who forfeited millions of dollars in incentive compensation when he left Exxon to work for a competitor.  You can read the background of the case here.  Today, the Texas Supreme Court held that a forfeiture clause contained… Continue Reading

Distinction Between Supervisor/Nonsupervisor Makes $70,000 Difference in Religious Discrimination Case

Posted in Case Summaries, Discrimination, Religion
The status of an employee as a supervisor or nonsupervisor can have a significant impact on the outcome of a discrimination, harassment or retaliation case. For example, if an employee who commits a hostile work environment is a supervisor, the employer could be deprived of valuable legal defenses like the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense. A recent case from… Continue Reading

Delivery of FMLA Notices by First Class Mail Does Not Rule Out Disputes Over Receipt of Notice

Posted in Case Summaries, Leave of Absence
The DOL regulations require FMLA-covered employers to provide various notices to employees.  The regulations do not dictate how all of the notices must be delivered.  Most employers utilize hand-delivery or regular U.S. mail for most pre-leave notices (eligibility and pre-leave designations) and use U.S. mail almost exclusively for post-leave notices (i.e., when the employee is already out on leave).… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds, in Issue of First Impression, that But-For Causation Applies to Claims Arising Under the Jury System Improvement Act

Posted in Case Summaries, Discrimination, Retaliation
Both federal and Texas law prohibit discrimination against employees for participating in various types of jury service. Imagine an employer defending itself from the accusation that it terminated an employee because of her jury service and then looking across the courtroom to see the individuals who will most likely decide the merits of its case –a… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds Confidential Information Policy Protecting Company Financial and Personnel Information Violates the NLRA

Posted in Case Summaries, Labor-Management Relations
In an opinion likely effecting many Texas employers, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an employer’s confidentiality policy that prohibited employees from disclosing all company financial and personnel information without a carve-out for employee wage information violated the National Labor Relations Act. Flex Frac, a non-union employer, required all of its employees to sign the following confidentiality… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Rejects Argument that Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements Violate the NLRA

Posted in Arbitration, Case Summaries, Wage & Hour
I first wrote about the NLRB’s decision that pre-dispute arbitration agreements waiving the right to assert claims as part of a class action violated federal labor law in January 2012 (post).  Back then, I thought it was prudent for employers to wait for the result of the the inevitable appeal that would follow before revising or… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Confirms Use of Fluctuating Workweek Method of Overtime Calculation in Misclassification Case

Posted in Case Summaries, Wage & Hour
In settlement negotiations and trial of FLSA overtime misclassification cases, there is usually a disagreement between the parties as to how the unpaid overtime should be calculated. Attorneys representing employees typically want overtime calculated using a 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for each overtime hour that was worked. Attorneys representing companies typically want to utilize… Continue Reading