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Court Revives Employee's Hostile Work Environment Complaint

Summary judgments get called a lot of names -- MSJ, summary adjudication, judgment as a matter of law.

In the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, the judges call it "the summary judgment ax." At least that's how they described it in Rivera-Rivera v. Medina & Medina, a hostile work environment case.

The appeals court affirmed in part and reversed in part a decision on summary judgment. Basically, the trial judge should have used a scalpel instead of an ax.

ADA Appellant Loses in 'School of Hard Knocks'

Victor Sepulveda-Vargas, working late as an assistant manager at Burger King, had a really bad day.

While attempting to make a deposit, he was attacked at gunpoint, hit over the head and had his car stolen. But that was just the beginning of what an appeals court called, "a lesson straight out of the school of hard knocks."

In Sepulveda-Vargas v. Caribbean Restaurants, LLC, the former Burger King manager sued because his employer declined his request to change his shift. The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals said sometimes the law is just not on your side.

The gender discrimination case of Lori Franchina against the Providence, Rhode Island fire department is not for the faint of heart.

Despite seemingly being on a fast track to a management position within the department, Franchina's career trajectory seemed to be abruptly cut short after she complained of retaliation for talking to a superior about another firefighter's immature behavior. After she was questioned about the incident, she began encountering severe retaliation as well as gender discrimination.

Franchina experienced, using the court's own words, an abhorrent and vile hostile working environment. And according to a jury, and both the district and appellate courts, the city and department failed to do their jobs, resulting in a nearly $1 million award (inclusive of attorney fees).

Independent Contractor v. Employee Battle Wages On

In boxing, fighters learn the old one-two.

It's one punch followed up quickly by another, like a left jab followed by a right cross, or another combination. The combination isn't as important as the execution; it has to be as automatic as a reflex to punish the opponent before he has a chance to react.

That's what's happening to the defendant in Djamel Ouadani v. TF Final Mile LLC.

The two Boston teamsters, Joseph Burhoe and John Perry, who were convicted in 2014 on federal union extortion charges have had their convictions reversed and cases remanded by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The 75-page opinion provides an interesting glance into the nuanced complexity surrounding the issue of union extortion.

In short, the two teamsters were found guilty of extortion after a trial where it was proved that they threatened to picket businesses unless those businesses hired union workers. However, on appeal, a bad jury instruction proved terminal to the federal government's case, though it may not actually be over for the pair of union advocates, as other counts were affirmed.

What a difference a comma can make. In a recent case out of Maine, a missing comma in the state's overtime law decided a dispute between a dairy company and its delivery drivers, where, literally, for want of a comma the case was lost.

Of course, writers, grammarians, lawyers, and the like (wordsy, rulesy people, all) love to debate the value of commas. And few comma issues are as divisive as the Oxford, or serial, comma. This passion for punctuation has kept books on the bestseller list (remember "Eats, Shoots & Leaves"?), prompted public polling, and inspired endless online think pieces.

Sometimes those battles are fought in courtrooms, as was the case in O'Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, the Maine overtime dispute decided by the First Circuit yesterday.

1st Circuit Gives Employers Some Breathing Room in ADA Claims

The First Circuit affirmed in whole the summary dismissal of an employee's disability discrimination claims on Monday, ruling that the employee failed to prove a prima facie case of repeated violations.

The case is sure to come as a relief to employers who have often complained that federal anti-discrimination laws are overly onerous and hamper business and profits.

Social Worker Gets Validated in Maine Whistleblower Suit

A Maine Social Worker got an earlier Summary Judgment against her vacated by the First Circuit's Court of Appeals because of an understandable but erroneous reading of a key case.

We ask you: if your work is "excellent" and "very [good]," but you're fired soon after you blow the whistle -- is there a casual connection between your finking and your firing? A reasonable mind could probably agree there is.

A Puerto Rican government worker has lost his political discrimination suit after the First Circuit ruled on Friday that he could show no evidence that his employment actions were politically motivated. Victor Santiago Diaz, a teacher and administrator in the island's Department of Education, had claimed that he suffered employment discrimination after a new political party came into power.

However, Santiago didn't have any strong evidence to back up that claim, the First Circuit ruled. Even worse -- the actions he objected to were hardly adverse and the supervisor most responsible for them was a member of his own political party.

Hard to Win an ADA Retaliation Claim When You Failed at Your Job

This case is neither particularly exciting, nor complicated.

Maria J. Collazo-Rosado worked for the University of Puerto Rico, heading up its student tutoring department. She suffers from Chron's Disease, which causes inflammation of the intestines. You're not a doctor, and neither am I, but that basically means she runs to the toilet a lot and has to have frequent visits with a doctor.

UPR had a pretty strict attendance policy about using time cards, one which she repeatedly failed to follow (ostensibly because of her condition, though she even failed to text or email when she was going to be late, as required by UPR). She might have had a fighting chance at a claim except ... she failed at her actual job, nuking any possible claims of retaliation and pretextual termination.