U.S. Third Circuit - The FindLaw 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Employment Law Category

3rd Circuit Revives FMLA Case Against Boscov's

In a way, the farmer's market was mixing apples and oranges.

Craig Zuber, who worked at the Fairgrounds Farmer's Market in Reading, Pennsylvania, signed a settlement agreement after he was injured on the job. He then sued the company for Family Medical Leave Act violations and other claims.

Boscov's, the employer, said he waived his right to sue when he settled the injury case. A federal appeals court said, that's different.

Nuclear Security Guard's Disability Suit Fails

We do not want mentally disturbed people in charge of nuclear power -- and we're not even talking about certain world leaders.

In the case of McNelis v. Pennsylvania Power & Light Company, the court was talking about a security guard at a nuclear power plant. He sued for disability discrimination, but the court concluded he was not mentally fit for the job.

It is a sad story for the individual in the case, but emphasizes the explosive potential for everybody from paranoia around nuclear power.

Court: Secular Anti-Abortion Organization Must Offer Contraception Coverage

Few judges will offer an opinion about religious issues with abortion or contraception before being appointed to the federal bench, but it is another matter after confirmation.

In Real Alternatives, Inc. v. Secretary Department of Health and Human Services, Judge Kent A. Jordan had no problem expressing his opinion. In the 115-page decision, he stretched his dissent over 55 pages to say that employees should not be compelled to pay for insurance coverage that offends their religious beliefs.

"What my colleagues fail to appreciate is that coercing financial support for something deeply objectionable is a real and substantial burden, and a forced signature alone can be problematic," he said. "In matters of conscience, the signing of one's name is more than a scrawl on paper."

The Third Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a whistleblower case against a make-up company because the claims were more than just "skin deep."

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this case is the court's acceptance that a lawyer's whistleblower claim can be premised upon an obligation under the code of professional responsibility. The lower court dismissed the case partly based on the fact that the rules of professional responsibility were not laws that the makeup company had to abide by, and therefore did not fit the New Jersey statute at issue. The Third Circuit disagreed and specifically ruled that the rules of professional conduct could be used as the basis of a whistleblower claim premised on NJ's Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).

The Third Circuit dealt the final blow to a long-running whistleblower suit last Tuesday. Jeffrey Wiest, a former accounts payable manager for Tyco Electronics, alleged that he had been illegally terminated in retaliation for raising concerns over expenditures on lavish parties featuring mermaid greeters, pirate performers and fire dancers. He sued, claiming that his firing months later violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The Third Circuit wasn't convinced, however, finding that Wiest had failed to show that his termination was connected to his mermaid expenditures complaints, rather than a later, independent sexual harassment investigation.

While Donald Trump campaigns to 'make America great again,' the Atlantic City casinos bearing his name have been doing anything but great. Trump casinos, hotels, and resorts have filed for bankruptcy no less than four times. The Trump Taj Mahal Casino first went into Chapter 11 in 1991, then again in September of 2014.

That most recent bankruptcy led to a protracted battle with the casino's union workers, who lost their bid to hold the Taj Mahal to its contracts last Friday, when the Third Circuit ruled that the bankruptcy code allowed debtors to escape their collective bargaining agreements.

If you want to officiate your cousins wedding, you can spend a few bucks and get ordained online in under 15 minutes. But if you want to establish a church plan, an ERISA-exempt defined benefit retirement plan, you better be a church. That's the gist of a recent ruling by the Third Circuit that concluded, "per the plain text of ERISA, only a church can establish" such plans.

Though the Third Circuit's ruling seems straightforward, it contrasts with years of IRS practice found that "nonchurch status is not fatal" when establishing church plans and decades of court opinions assuming that church plans could be established by entities that simply have strong ties to churches.

Overview of 3rd Circuit's Precedent-Setting FLSA Cases

Employment lawyers have been keeping their eyeballs on the Third Circuit lately. That court of appeals has been very busy making law with regards to the federal FLSA in two recent cases.

As an added bonus, the court was mercifully clear in its dicta and tone in both opinions. It might not be a bright line rule, but hey -- let's not be greedy.

You Eat on Your Own Time! 3rd Cir. Rules

Guards at Butler County Prison have lost their overtime lawsuit after they claimed that 15 minutes of an hour-long meal break was compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The suit was a case of first impression for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. With this decision, the Third is the latest in a growing club of federal courts which have applied a harsh standard, essentially cutting off pay for workers who eat on what is arguably time for their own benefit.

Temp Workers Can Sue for Discrimination ... Maybe

The battle over workers' rights and employers' desire to conduct business lawsuit-free turned another page recently. In Faush v. Tuesday Morning. Inc,The Third Circuit overturned a grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant temp-employer, remanding the case back to the lower court for further findings. The language applied in the court's opinion spells more trouble ahead for employers seeking to blur the distinction between 'temp' and 'employee.'