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Honeywell Retirees Won't Get Health Benefits

The Honeywell Autolite factory in Fostoria, Ohio, once employed more than 1,000 people; that was nearly 10 percent of the town's population.

Then, following a string of factory closures in the area, the spark plug plant started to close down. Today, there's only a handful of workers at the plant and not much they can do about it.

For Honeywell retirees, it's even worse. They had counted on health insurance benefits, but a federal appeals court said the company doesn't owe them any.

The case against hhgregg Inc. alleging that the company failed to pay overtime, and used a method of deducting commission draws from future pay, all in violation of the FLSA, has been revived. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of the lower federal court, sending the case back to litigation.

The appellate court explained that the district court incorrectly found hhgregg's method of offsetting an employee's wages based on commission was lawful. In reversing, it additionally explained that the retailer or service establishment exception did not apply.

Court: $666 Pay Raise Not Diabolical

They say the devil's in the details.

No, really, that's what a law professor and an assistant dean said in their complaint against their old law school. Professor Sheldon Gelman said his $666 pay raise was intended to invoke the "mark of the beast."

Gelman alleged that Dean Craig Boise, of the Cleveland Marshall College of Law, basically called him "Satan" for organizing a union. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said, well, no.

The National Labor Relations Act, in order to create a nationally uniform corpus of labor law, generally preempts labor regulation on the state and local level. There are exceptions, however, including the ability for states to adopt "right to work" laws. But does that state exemption extend down to the local government as well?

Yes, according to the Sixth Circuit, which last week upheld local "right to work" ordinances, finding that they were not preempted by the NLRA.

A group of 194 employees fired by Vanderbilt University in the summer of 2013 can't pursue a class action -- and planned settlement -- against the university over Vanderbilt's violation of "mass layoff" laws, the Sixth Circuit ruled last week.

The canned employees alleged that Vanderbilt never provided them or 279 other employees 60-days notice as required by the mass layoff provisions of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. But, to fall under WARN, a layoff must effect at least 500 workers, the Sixth found, and the two groups of fired employees were let go too far apart to be combined for WARN purposes.

Worm Farm Workers Don't Get Overtime Pay, Court Rules

If you're a worm farmer, there's some good news for you. Under a decision by the Sixth Circuit, you don't have to pay overtime to your workers if they're growing worms.

Bruno Durant, the president of Silver Bait, emigrated from his native France to the United States to grow worms. After raising worms on Georgia, he purchased land in Tennessee and later established Silver Bait on the land he bought. He hired workers, many of whom worked than the FLSA full-time standard of 40 hours per week.

It was the largest civil class action lawsuit ever, until the Supreme Court cut it down. Now, the gender bias suit against Walmart has returned, short a million and a half class members or so.

The Sixth Circuit revived a gender bias class action against the world's largest private employer. The class action was filed on behalf of all female employees in Walmart's Region 43, centered in Tennessee but reaching to Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi. It alleges systematic gender discrimination in pay and promotions.

Monitoring Radio Doesn't Turn Meal Breaks Into Work Time: 6th Cir.

Meal breaks are generally supposed to be a time when employees aren't working. After all, if they're working during their break, then it's not really a break, is it?

That's what some current and former security guards at Detroit's MotorCity Casino thought. Their bargaining agreement with the casino allowed them to take 30-minute paid breaks and use the employee cafeteria, but they weren't allowed to leave the casino property and had to respond to calls over their radios.

Monitoring the radios, they claimed, was compensable work time, not a break. The Sixth Circuit, however, disagreed.

Oral Args. in Telecommuting, Self-Representation En Banc Cases

Earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit heard oral arguments in two en banc cases that we've been covering: the "irritable bowel" telecommuting case and a habeas case where a man claims that he was denied his right to self-representation.

The former case asks whether summary judgment in favor of Ford Motor Co. was proper when an employee requested to telecommute as a reasonable accommodation of her disability -- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The latter case, Hill v. Curtin, is about a man who asked to represent himself on the first day of trial, before a jury was empaneled. His request was denied as untimely by the trial court and by the state appellate courts, but the district court granted habeas relief.

Red Cross Volunteer Nuns Aren't 'Employees' Under Title VII: 6th Cir.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits, among other things, employment discrimination based on religion. That's great, but what about volunteers? Sister Michael Marie and Sister Mary Cabrini, two Catholic nuns, were Red Cross volunteers in Chillicothe, Ohio.

They were never employees, but they believe the positive reviews they received over the years should have entitled them to "promotions" that would have altered their roles and responsibilities. They never received those promotions -- because, they alleged, the Executive Director of the local chapter of the Red Cross was biased against them because they were "traditional" Catholics.