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Worker's Emotional Distress Damages for Retaliation Upheld by 5th Cir.

A federal appeals court ruled that a worker can claim emotional distress damages for an employer's retaliation on a wage claim.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals joined other federal circuits in considering remedies available to workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The appellate court said the FLSA authorizes emotional damages as "legal and equitable relief" on account of employer retaliation.

In reversing and remanding, the appeals panel said the trial court must consider additional evidence of emotional distress and award damages accordingly. Santiago Pineda won only overtime and retaliation damages at trial.

Overtime Case on Maximum Overdrive

The Fifth Circuit will expedite a case to decide whether overtime wages will potentially double for millions of Americans.

In a one-page order, the circuit court said it will fast-track the appeal of a preliminary injunction blocking overtime rules that would have taken effect on Dec. 1, 2016. A district court judge had enjoined the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing its new overtime rules, which could have raised the minimum salary level from $455 per week to $913 per week for white-collar workers.

The appeals court set a briefing schedule that will challenge the participants to work through the holidays. Briefs are due Dec. 16, 2016; Dec. 23, 2016; Jan. 17, 2017; Jan. 23, 2017; and Jan. 31, 2017. A hearing will be set to follow at that time.

Patent Infringement Can't Give Rise to Antitrust Liability, 5th Cir. Rules

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals let the air out of a $340 million verdict against a syringe manufacturer, sending the case back to the trial court for a recalculation of damages.

The court reversed the anti-trust portion of the verdict, but upheld a false advertising claim. As a result, the trial judge will have to undo damages that were awarded under the Sherman Anti-trust Act and determine any potential damages under the Lanham Act. Becton Dickinson & Co., the largest manufacturer of syringes in the country, still faces substantial liability for falsely advertising that it had the "the world's sharpest needle" and that it had "the lowest waste space."

"First, patent infringement, which operates to increase competition, is not anticompetitive conduct," the appeals court said in reversing the anti-trust decision. Second, the justices said, the false advertising claim was nonexistent for an anti-trust claim.

Mississippi's governor and its executive director of the state's Department of Human Services are asking the Fifth Circuit to stay a federal court's preliminary injunction against the state's Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, known as HB 1523. That law seeks to protect opponents of gay marriage in both public and private services, who take actions "based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction."

Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocked the law just moments before it would have gone into effect on July 1st. "There are almost endless explanations for how HB 1523 condones discrimination against the LGBT community, but in its simplest terms it denies LGBT citizens equal protection under the law," Judge Reeves wrote. Afterword, the Mississippi attorney general refused to appeal that ruling. Now the governor and human services director are stepping into his place.

The Supreme Court ended its most recent term with a bang on Monday, reversing the Fifth Circuit and declaring that Texas's restrictions on abortion providers constituted an undue burden on a woman's access to abortion, in violation of the Constitution.

In Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court rejected the Fifth Circuit's determination that uncertainty about the health risks of abortion can justify restrictions on physicians. Instead, the Court found that any such restrictions must be based on convincing medical evidence, to be evaluated by courts, not lawmakers, and any burdens those restrictions impose must be outweighed by their health benefits. The ruling is certain to affect many pending abortion lawsuits, in the Fifth Circuit and beyond.

The ExxonMobile industrial complex in Baytown, Texas is a sprawling place. Stretching over nearly 2,500 acres over five square miles, the complex, the second largest oil refinery in the country, is capable of processing more than half a million barrels of oil a day -- along with significant amounts of air pollution. And according to Texas environmental groups, Exxon's plant regularly violated the terms of its operating permits, belching far more pollution into the air than what was permitted.

Six years ago, those groups brought suit under the Clean Air Act, accusing Exxon of thousands of violations at its Baytown plant. A district court found only 94 of the thousands of alleged violations to be "actionable" and refused to impose any penalties against the world's largest oil company. But those groups received some vindication from the Fifth Circuit last week, when that court ruled the district court had abused its discretion by "declining to impose any penalties, issue a declaratory judgment or grant injunctive relief in remediation of the violations at issue."

Judge Hanen Blasts DOJ, Orders Ethics Class for Attorneys

A Texas judge issued a very scathing and very public finger wagging at the Department of Justice lawyers who argued the DOJ's case before him concerning President Obama's amnesty program. In fact, a few were ordered by the judge to learn their place and to take ethics courses.

Considering the effort and length of his extraordinary order, we have to mention how interesting it is that Judge Andrew W. Hanen takes "neither joy nor finds satisfaction" with his actions.

Texas's highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, dismissed abuse of power charges against former Governor Rick Perry on Wednesday, bringing to an end a long-running battle over Perry's actions while in office.

A grand jury had indicted Perry in 2014, charging him with abusing the power of the governor's office by pressuring a state district attorney to step down and vetoing financing for the anti-corruption office she helmed.

Who Acts as Circuit Justice for the 5th Until Scalia Is Replaced?

Each of the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals has one of the nine Supreme Court Justices assigned to handle procedural matters for that circuit. In the case of the late Justice Scalia, that was the Fifth Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

But now that he's passed away, who will act as circuit justice?

Mandatory Arbitration Agreements for Employees OK, 5th Cir. Rules

The National Labor Relations Board has been a thorn in the Fifth Circuit's said these past few years. Several days ago, however, the panel court made it perfectly clear that it hadn't changed its mind with regards to the proper scope of the National Labor Standards Act.

The issue at bar (now apparently settled) is whether or not employers can require the signing of mandatory arbitration clauses that preclude employee lawsuits against the company. The answer? Such clauses are allowed.