A Ninth Circuit panel holds, in a Title VII and Oregon state law case, that an employer's breaking into a work locker constitutes a materially adverse employment action. The panel also splits - 2-1 - over whether the employer failed to take appropriate steps to stop alleged racial harassment, and whether it disproportionately punished the plaintiff by firing him (for leaving the workplace) while taking no action against the harasser.
Here are two employment cases about second-chances. A plan participant who filed an ERISA claim too late under a contractual limitations period is rescued by a decision that the plan violated its duty by not telling the participant about the shortened deadline. The EEOC wins a second opportunity to advance claims on behalf of a class of female victims of harassment, in the wake of Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, 135 S. Ct. 1645 (2015).
The Ninth Circuit, ruling en banc, overrules a prior panel decision and holds that the BMW of N. Am., Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996), ratio test for excessiveness of punitive damages is essentially unnecessary for evaluating a capped award under Title VII governed by 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(3)(D).
Employees with disabilities are sometimes caught between the desire to work and the need to apply for public or short-term disability benefits for survival purposes. The Ninth Circuit does a good job in explaining how these are not necessarily in conflict, reversing summary judgment in an Americans with Disabilities Act case where a school teacher had to apply for disability retirement.
Under the law of several federal circuits, employment-discrimination and other plaintiffs who omit their claims as estate assets in Chapter 7 bankruptcy are held to forfeit them under the legal theory of "judicial estoppel" - a rule that prevents litigants from taking inconsistent positions in successive proceedings. The Ninth Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, stakes an entirely new position, contrary to this consensus: provided that the claimant omitted the claim by mistake or inadvertence, and re-opens the bankruptcy proceeding to correct the omission, there will be no estoppel. A dissenting judge vigorously objects to this plaintiff-friendly rule.
Though slightly off the employment-beat, this Ninth Circuit decision may be useful to our readers, for the important and simple lesson that an Americans with Disabilities Act plaintiff does not necessarily need an expert to testify about architectural barriers. As the panel majority writes, "Perhaps we've become too expert-prone."
An employer that strenuously denied that it fired an employee who complained about sex harassment finds itself short-handed on appeal. The Ninth Circuit - in a 2-1 decision - reverses summary judgment in this Title VII harassment and retaliation case, holding that an employer that fails to offer a reason or explanation for a termination decision creates an issue of fact for the jury to decide.
The Ninth Circuit reminds courts that the notice pleading standard for garden-variety employment discrimination cases remains low under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, and that a simple three-page complaint can suffice.
The Ninth Circuit holds (2-1) that a federal-sector promotion process that weeds out a well-qualified older candidate for promotion, which then awards the job to the youngest applicant, and that was possibly influenced by data about the employees' projected retirement dates, presents a genuine issue of material fact about age discrimination under the ADEA.
The Ninth Circuit contributes to the latest in a roster of recent U.S. Courts of Appeals' decisions reversing summary judgment in cases where the district court applied a too-strict standard of "similarly situated" to evaluate an employee's claim of discriminatory discipline under the McDonnell Douglas test.