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Montana Employer Can Fire Marijuana User

Marijuana users have been on a high, but what goes up this time comes down.

In Carlson v. Charter Communications, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals turned down a marijuana user who sued his employer for firing him under its drug policy. The plaintiff lost in state court, so he asked the federal court to consider it.

It came down to a question about whether a state law legalizing marijuana trumped the employer's policy to have a drug-free workplace. In a word, the court said "no."

Court: Uber Drivers Must Go Through Arbitration

Uber has been going in reverse lately, but is about to turn a big corner.

After agreeing to pay $148 million in a privacy case this week, the ride-hailing company got some good news in another. In O'Connor v. Uber Technologies, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said Uber drivers are bound by their arbitration agreements.

That means their class actions are headed for a dead end. Uber drivers will have to fight their battles one at a time.

Ninth Circuit Resets Wage Case for Servers, Bartenders

IHOP didn't seriously change its name to IHob; that was just to get customers' attention.

But the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals got some serious attention from the International House of Pancakes in a labor case. Along with many other restaurants, IHOP may have to change its wage practices.

In a consolidated ruling with Marsh v. J. Alexander's LLC, the Ninth Circuit said the plaintiffs have claims against their employers for allegedly taking their tips and underpaying them.

When people speak of justice being elusive, the recent Ninth Circuit appellate decision, McCray v. Marriott, involving the San Jose union employees being denied the local minimum wage, is rather illustrative.

The case was first filed in state court, then removed to the federal district courts, where it was dismissed. And now, after an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel of justices has decided to send the case back to state court, to actually get litigated.

'No Mas' for Taco Bell Workers' Class Action

A federal appeals court ruled that workers had no case against Taco Bell for violating lunch breaks.

In Rodriguez v. Taco Bell Corp., the plaintiffs complained the employer violated wage laws by making them eat onsite if they bought food at employee discounts. The restaurant chain didn't want workers to abuse the discount privilege by taking food outside.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said there is nothing wrong with that. So long as businesses don't make employees work on their lunch breaks, they are not breaking the law.

No Duty to Disclose Child-Slave Labor in Chocolate Case

Otto von Bismarck said something like, "there are two things you don't want to see made: law and sausage."

That's also -- more or less -- what the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said about chocolate in Hodson v. Mars, Inc. The appeals court said the candy-maker defendant had no duty to disclose whether child-slave labor was used to make its products.

"Reprehensible" as the process may be, the appeals court said, that has little to do with chocolate products.

In a peculiar twist of events, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor Uber, Lyft and other rideshare services' challenge to a Seattle law that would allow the drivers to unionize.

In short, the appellate court found merit to the challengers' argument that allowing the unionization could violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. The case made its way up to the Ninth Circuit after the federal district court in Seattle dismissed the challenge.

San Diego Albertsons Sued for Ban on Spanish Language

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, federal officials filed suit against an Albertons store for banning employees from speaking Spanish.

It is more than a legal problem for the grocery store chain, which employs about 280,000 people in the United States. Only the San Diego store is in trouble for the Spanish-language ban, but it is a practical problem as well.

About 32 percent of the border community there is Hispanic. So how will the Albertsons, a short walk away from Mexico, serve its Spanish-speakers?

Court: NLRA Applies to Tribal Casino

In gambling, sometimes the house doesn't win.

That's what happened in National Labor Relations Board v. Casino Pauma. The tribal casino tried to keep employees from distributing union literature, and the NLRB stepped in.

The board said the casino violated federal laws protecting union activity, but the tribe said not on its land. In a petition to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the casino took a chance and lost.

Court: Prior Salary Can't Justify Lower Pay for Women

A federal appeals court ruled that employers may not pay women less than men based on prior salaries when hiring for the same job.

The decision was a turnaround for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which last year ruled that employers could consider salary history in hiring. But the full court stepped over that decision by a three-judge panel, and also reversed its own ruling in a related case more than 35 years ago.

It is a significant opinion, in part because it was penned by Judge Stephen Reinhardt before he died last month. The "liberal lion" spared no one in thrashing a history of unequal pay for women.