9th Circuit Employment Law News - U.S. Ninth Circuit
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A county sheriff accused of creating a sexually hostile work environment by hugging and kissing a coworker isn't entitled to summary judgement, the Ninth Circuit has ruled. Yolo County Sheriff Edward G. Prieto was accused by Victoria Zetwick, a correctional sergeant, of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act based on allegedly over a hundred "unwelcome hugs and/or kisses" over a 12-year period.

The district court had granted Prieto's motion for summary judgment, finding that the accused conduct was not severe or pervasive enough to establish a hostile work environment, but the unanimous three-judge Ninth Circuit panel reversed in an unpublished opinion, ruling that a reasonable jury could find Prieto's conduct to have violated the law.

Just two days after Labor Day, the Ninth Circuit has ruled against Uber drivers in a decision that could seriously limit their ability to pursue class actions against the company. On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Uber's driver contracts, which include causes requiring individual arbitration of disputes, were not unconscionable and could be enforced against the drivers.

The ruling comes in response to a driver class action over background checks, not the massive employee misclassification class action the company also faces, but the Ninth's decision could have significant implications for those plaintiffs as well.

9th Cir: Miwok Indians Did Not Waive Sovereign Immunity

The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians did not inadvertently waive their sovereign immunity by removing a state court matter into a federal court. This is largely because such a move did not constitute a clean and unequivocal waiver.

With or without a trial, the ruling is a landmark victory for various Native American nations' sovereignty.

'Not a Church' -- Dignity Health Plan Doesn't Qualify for ERISA Exception

In what can be fairly called a legal nice try, the Ninth Circuit's Court of Appeals has ruled that Dignity Health's pension plan does not qualify for ERISA's church plan exemption.

It's a a ruling that is so far consistent with the findings of other courts on the subject. Only this time, it looked like it could have gone either way from the start. After all, Dignity Health at least started out as a church.

Ninth Cir. Upholds 'Neutral Timekeeping' in Employee Pay

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld what is quickly becoming doctrine in all the federal courts: neutral-timekeeping is lawful under the FLSA.

The decision comes as a blow to Andre Corbin and other hourly wage-earners like him who allege lost wages due to unfavorable rounding to the nearest quarter. But it's really no surprise given other courts' views on the matter.

Uber Lawsuit: Chen's Class Certification to Be Reviewed by 9th Cir.

Remember how it seemed that the world was coming to and end in the case of O'Connor v. Uber when District Court Judge Chen certified a class of Uber drivers that numbered approximately 150,000? Uber was not too happy about that and appealed the class certification. They got denied once.

Just Kidding! It looks like the Ninth Circuit will be hearing that issue after all. It should be emphasized that the challenge to certification does not stop the case, but a decertification of the class would be a major step back for Uber plaintiffs who've been pushing for employee status and labor protections.

Sexual Harassment Claims Against Prison Co. Will Go Forward

A previously dismissed sexual harassment suit brought against a Florida-state correctional agency that contracts with the Department of Justice must be reinstated, said the Ninth Circuit. The case centers on the unprofessional and sexually explicit behaviors of male co-workers who were employees of Florida based Geo Group.

The Arizona Attorneys Office seemed happy by the Ninth Circuit's ruling. "This ruling allows our office to seek remedies for 25 women who were forced to accept sexual harassment by their male co-workers and supervisors as a requirement for their work at the Geo Group," said Mia Garcia, a spokesperson for the AZ Attorney General's Office.

9th Circuit Expands Dept. of Labor Power Into Tip-Pools

The Ninth Circuit recently reinvigorated a 2011 tip-pooling rule, allowing the regulations of employers who use the practice despite steering clear of the FLSA's "tip credit" provisions.

Ed O'Bannon and other college athletes won't get an en banc rehearing in the Ninth Circuit, the court announced today. O'Bannon, the once-upon-a-time star of the UCLA basketball team, sued the NCAA for antitrust violations after he discovered the association was licensing his image for video games, while preventing college athletes from making a dime off such deals.

The Ninth Circuit gave the NCAA a partial win in September. Yes, the NCAA is subject to antitrust laws, the court found. But no, the NCAA cannot simply set aside $5,000 in trust for athletes, payable on graduation. And no, the court announced today, it's not willing to reconsider.

The Ninth Circuit has given the EEOC the go ahead to compel production of so-called "pedigree information" in employment investigations. Pedigree information includes things like an employee's name, Social Security number, address, and telephone number.

The ruling came after the EEOC investigated the McLane Company for gender discrimination after it refused to allow an employee to return to her job following maternity leave. The Commission sought extensive information on employees which McLane refused to provide but which, the Ninth Circuit has ruled, was appropriate and relevant to the investigation.