U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

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No Discrimination When Racial Slur Part of Job

A black police officer, a potential witness in a case, listened as a prosecutor started to read aloud racially-offensive letters that could be used for trial.

The lawyer stopped and asked if anyone in the trial preparation room was offended, prompting a black assistant attorney to leave but not the police officer. The prosecutor continued reading, repeating the word "Nigga" over and over again.

In Savage v. State of Maryland, the officer sued for racial discrimination because he had to listen to the offensive letters and he was not used as a witness. Let's read that again.

Court Calls Strip Club's Arbitration Strategy a 'Sham'

The Crazy Horse Saloon owners must have thought that they could out-lawyer Alexis Degidio, the exotic dancer who sued the strip club for wage violations.

In Degidio v. Crazy Horse Saloon and Restaurant, she alleged the company wrongly treated exotic dancers as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime. She also claimed the defendant improperly took dancers' tips.

But after more than a year of discovery and motions, the Crazy Horse thought of another strategy -- compel arbitration. The U.S Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said it was a sham.

The case of Stanley Penley v. McDowell County Board of Education may not be that remarkable when it comes to fact patterns. A teacher made an insensitive comment in one of his classes directed at a student. The student's parent complained. The teacher was investigated. The investigation resulted in the teacher's termination. The teacher lost on summary judgment, and now he lost his appeal.

And, sadly for that teacher, the appellate decision isn't even remarkable for the legal principles one could learn from it. Rather, the concurrence is worthy of mention. After getting beaten to the ground on every single appellate claim, which came after getting beaten to the ground on every claim at the district court, after a long and hard fought litigation, a concurrence all but calls this action frivolous.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a rather noteworthy decision for coal miners, operators, and the attorneys that represent them. The case involved the retroactive reach of the Black Lung Benefits Act's revised definition of a mine operator.

Interestingly, due to the framework of the BLBA, the mining company bringing the appeal only sought to challenge their liability, rather than the damages award. Notably, under the BLBA, the injured worker would still be able to receive the awarded damages, even without a finding of liability against the specific company. BLBA is a form of federal worker's compensation for mine workers, so the award comes from a common fund rather than the company.

Assistant Prosecutor Loses Political Firing Case

Keri Borzilleri, a former prosecutor, picked a loser.

She was campaigning for her boss, the incumbent for Baltimore's chief city attorney, but voters chose the opposition candidate. The new top prosecutor fired her four days later.

Borzilleri sued, but alas, her case was also a loser. As political purges go, in Borzilleri v. Mosby, it was business as usual.

Free Police Speech on Facebook

Cops are Facebook people, too. And according to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, police have a right to gripe about their jobs on Facebook and elsewhere. There are concerns, of course.

"We do not deny that officers' social media use might present some potential for division within the ranks, particularly given the broad audience on Facebook," the court said. "But the speculative ills targeted by the social networking policy are not sufficient to justify such sweeping restrictions on officers' freedom to debate matters of public concern."

In other words, sergeant, step away from the Facebook.

Muslim Woman's Discrimination Suit Revived

The wrongful termination suit by an Arab-American Muslim woman of Moroccan descent was largely reversed by the Fourth Circuit recently, meaning that a jury will hear the discrimination allegations she brought against her former employer.

It was a whopper of an opinion that discussed the limitations that lower federal courts ought to observe concerning summary adjudication.

4th Cir.'s Decision Will Allow W. Virginia Nurses to Unionize

Registered nurses employed by West Virginia’s Greenbrier Valley Medical Center and Bluefield Regional Medical Center will be allowed to unionize after suit against their employers, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

The decision will allow the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) to move forward on the nurses behalf.

Casino dealers can sue their employer for unpaid, mandatory dealer training, the Fourth Circuit ruled on Monday. The ruling revives a class action against PPE Casino Resorts Maryland, the owner of Maryland Live!, a $500 million casino complex in Hanover, Maryland.

Maryland Live! opened for business in 2012, after the state legalized gambling. A year later, when Maryland began to allow table games like blackjack and poker, the casino started a major expansion. To staff its table games, it sought to hire 830 new dealers, and those dealers would have to undergo several weeks of mandatory dealer training, almost all of it unpaid. But if not paying for training was a gamble, it's one that doesn't seem to have paid off.

"Drop and give me 14 push-ups! Or 30, if you're a dude." That, in essence, is the gender-based difference in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's physical fitness exam for special agent trainees. Men must be able to complete 30 push-ups to pass the physical exam; women are required to hit just 14.

And that's perfectly fine, the Fourth Circuit ruled on Monday, after a male trainee who was just one push-up short of 30 sued, arguing the test illegally discriminated on the basis of sex.