Here's two decisions from the Eighth Circuit coming off Rule 50 orders granting judgment as a matter of law to employers. In the first, the court reverses, holding that There was sufficient evidence for a jury to find that an employee was constructively discharged by being knocked down from a title as finance coordinator to the board to a job in food service. In the second, an FMLA retaliation case, the plaintiff does not prevail -- but the court says something very important about proof at trial.
An employee whom a jury had found was the victim of male-on-male harassment in the workplace wins back his $500,000 Title VII jury verdict on appeal, where the Fifth Circuit holds that the district court erred in finding post-trial that the harassment was not severe or pervasive as a matter of law.
The Seventh Circuit substantially upholds a jury verdict that the employer, the owner of a franchise restaurant, allowed two of its teen employees to be sexually harassed in violation of Title VII. The panel, in affirming denial of judgment as a matter of law, touches on several areas that recur in such cases - making the opinion a good template for future litigation and counselling in this area. The panel nonetheless reverses liability against the personnel company that managed the restaurant's employees, and remands for a new trial on that issue.
As we approach the final stretch of 2011, I can report two more appeals of race discrimination cases where the plaintiffs (more or less) came out on top. In the Fifth Circuit, the panel reverses summary judgment in a Title VII reverse-race termination case, finding that the plaintiff succeeded in building a plausible claim that her employer lied about the reasons for her termination. And in the Eleventh Circuit, a now-15 year-old, § 1981 case - which took an intervening trip to the U.S. Supreme Court - comes to what may be its final resting place, with the plaintiff keeping a winning verdict and judgment, while losing $1 million in punitive damages.
Can increased scrutiny at work, including a disciplinary letter (later withdrawn), constitute a "materially adverse action" for a claim under Title VII's anti-retaliation provision, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a)? A jury said "yes," to the tune of a $500,000 judgment, but the Second Circuit - in a 2-1 decision - sides with the district court on these facts, and says "no."
An age discrimination plaintiff wins a $48,000 judgment at trial, only to lose it - in a 2-1 vote - before a panel of the Fifth Circuit, which holds that judgment should have been entered for the employer on limitations grounds. As Judge Higginbotham's dissent points out, the issue of who decides such issues is paramount.
In a highly unusual development, a panel of the Fifth Circuit reverses itself in an employment discrimination case, in favor of the plaintiff. It had previously affirmed a Rule 50 judgment as a matter of law granted to the employer - a public hospital - in a § 1981 race discrimination case, but in a two-page per curiam order, it announces that it is vacating and remanding the case back for trial.
A jury finds that a promising woman neurosurgeon was bumped off-track by a campaign of sex harassment and retaliation, in violation of Title VII and Massachusettes civil rights law. The First Circuit affirms awards of $600,000 against the Hospital in compensatory damages on the retaliation claim and $1,000,000 in compensatory damages against it on the hostile work environment claim (with lesser awards for other state law claims), and $1,352,525.94 in attorneys' fees.
Today we log two wins for ADA "regarded as" disability discrimination claimants. In the First Circuit, the panel holds that a district court too hastily dismissed a complaint of disability discrimination, alleging that the employer refused to assign a mentally-ill employee anywhere in the workplace. In the Sixth Circuit, the panel (in an unpublished opinion) astoundingly overturns a jury verdict for the employer - and orders entry of judgment for the employee - where the company placed the plaintiff on involuntary medical leave based solely on an unclear state-court order and without an independent examination of the employee.
Here's our first published opinion addressing the recently-decided Staub v. Proctor Hosp., 131 S. Ct. 1186 (2011), in the context of a fully-tried case. The Third Circuit holds in this Title VII case that the district court did not err in denying judgment as a matter of law for the city. It concludes that the jury could have found that the plaintiff's Police Board of Inquiry hearings (which led to his termination) did not break the chain of causation from the retaliatory write-up that commenced the disciplinary process.