U.S. Sixth Circuit - The FindLaw 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


No Hostile Work Environment at Union for 'Jim Crow' Comments

Over a sharp dissent about 'Jim Crow-like' comments, a federal appeals court said a black woman did not prove a hostile work environment against a union based on "a smattering of offensive conduct."

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiff had a novel claim because the court had never addressed whether Title VII covers hostile work environment claims against a union. If the law applied, however, the court said the plaintiff did not have enough evidence to support her claim in Phillips v. UAW International.

"Whether unions can be held liable for a Title VII hostile work environment claim is only at issue if Phillips has made the adequate showing that there was a hostile work environment," Judge David McKeague said. "She hasn't. "

The Sixth Circuit's Judge Damon J. Keith has served on the bench since 1967, and on the Sixth Circuit for four decades, but the 94-year-old jurist isn't exactly a household name. That may be changing soon, though.

A new documentary, "Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith" seeks to introduce Judge Keith to a wider audience, while exploring his work as a judge and a civil rights leader.

President Trump will nominate Amul Thapar to the Sixth Circuit, the White House announced on Tuesday. Thapar currently sits on the District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

This is not the first time Trump has considered Thapar for a promotion, either. The judge was included on President Trump's short list of candidates to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. That spot went to the Tenth Circuit's Neil Gorsuch, but a shot at the Sixth isn't a bad consolation prize.

Court Gives FedEx Worker Another Chance to Prove Age Discrimination

Reinstating an age discrimination case, a federal appeals court said "suspicious circumstances" surrounded the termination of a former FedEx manager.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said Gerard Howley, who had worked for the company 21 years, never had a reprimand until a new supervisor took over. A short time later, the new supervisor piled on warnings and then fired Howley for poor performance. The appeals court didn't buy it.

"Most significantly, there are the suspicious circumstances surrounding Howley's termination that give rise to a negative inference of age discrimination," Judge Eric Lee Clay wrote for the panel in Howley v. Federal Express Corporation.

"FedEx contends that it had legitimate reasons for issuing a warning to Howley on all three occasions for which he was disciplined," the panel continued. "However, this Court is struck by the relatively minor nature of Howley's offenses and wonders whether any of them merited termination."

Court Affirms Firing of Employee Who Carried Gun at Work

It should come as no surprise that Kentucky -- famous for the Kentucky Long Rifle -- allows workers to lawfully carry concealed weapons on the job.

After all, "Brown Bessie" was America's first firearm. She cleared the frontier, won the Revolution, and made U.S. history as much as any settler. So in Kentucky, they stand united behind their guns.

And so did Bruce Holly. He had a concealed weapons permit, and he kept a gun in his car at United Parcel Services.

The problem was the employer had a policy against workers possessing or using weapons on company property. And after Holly took the gun out of his car and placed it in another employee's vehicle, the company fired him.

En Banc 6th Cir. to Hear Government-Led Prayer Case

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal didn't take long to take another look at its recent decision against prayer at a county commission meeting.

The entire court, acting sua sponte, ordered another hearing on the issue less than two weeks after a panel ruled in the controversial case. In a split decision, the panel had said that Jackson County commissioners violated the First Amendment in conducting prayers before each meeting.

"Legislative prayer may fall outside the bounds of the Establishment Clause if it strays too far from its traditional purpose and effect--respectful solemnification -- or if it is unconstitutionally coercive," Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote for the majority.

Tax Loophole Upheld by 6th Circuit

Caligula, the notorious Roman emperor, posted the tax laws in fine print and so high that citizens could not read them.

"How can citizens comply with what they can't see?" the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal said in comparing the short-lived emperor to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. "And how can anyone assess the tax collector's exercise of power in that setting?"

Reversing a tax court decision, the federal appeals court upbraided the IRS commissioner for penalizing taxpayers for their contributions to Roth IRA's. The contributions were designed to avoid taxes within the scope of the law at the time, but the commissioner "recharacterized" the transactions to extract more tax dollars.

"As it turns out, the Commissioner does not have such sweeping authority," Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote for the unanimous court. "And neither do we."

During his unconventional press conference on Thursday, President Trump described the Ninth Circuit, as "in chaos." It was "a circuit that has been overturned a record number," he said, going on to explain that "this is just a number I heard, that they are overturned 80 percent of the time."

The comments come just days after the Ninth Circuit ruled against the president's travel ban, prompting surrogates to deride the court as "the most overturned court in the country." But that assertion isn't accurate, by many measures. That honor now goes to the Sixth. Not, however, that it matters.

AT&T Didn't Violate ADA for Firing Employee With Depression

A company lawfully fired a woman suffering from depression and anxiety because she was not qualified to do her job, a federal appeals court ruled.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment against a woman who sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act after her employer fired her for excessive absenteeism. Kirsten Williams, who went months without reporting for work, blamed her absences on depression and anxiety attacks. The appellate court said she had no case because she could not do her job.

"In the end, this case reflects the reality that there are some jobs that a person with disabilities is simply unable to perform," the unanimous panel said. "A blind person cannot be an airline pilot, nor can one with advanced Parkinson's disease be a neurosurgeon."

Officers who killed two pit bulls during a drug raid in 2013 have qualified immunity, the Sixth Circuit ruled recently. The dogs were shot multiple times as police in Battle Creek, Michigan, executed a search warrant. Afterwards, the dogs' owners sued, alleging that the pooch killing was an unconstitutional seizure of property under the Fourth Amendment.

It's a mixed ruling for fans of man's best friend. Though the Sixth ruled that unreasonably shooting a dog is a Fourth Amendment violation, it found the shootings reasonable here, given testimony that the dogs were barking and had lunged at officers.