U.S. Sixth Circuit - The FindLaw 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

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A funeral home in Michigan is learning one legal truth on appeal, or as the undertaker might colloquially say, postmortem: Transgender employees are protected from discrimination under Title VII.

Fortunately, no employees were murdered in the making of this appeal, but, according to a three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, one was certainly discriminated against. Aimee Stephens sued her former employer, RG and GR Harris Funeral Homes, for firing her after she started to transition from male to female. In addition to the discriminatory termination, Stephens also alleged that a wardrobe allowance that was only provided to male employees constituted additional gender discrimination.

When Memphis Light, Gas and Water denied one of their own in house attorney's request for a reasonable accommodation to work from home during a period of temporary disability related to a pregnancy, the public utility likely didn't think they'd get sued. It's not like lawyers are a very litigious bunch... oh wait... .

When it comes to denying an employee a reasonable accommodation, employers should take heed and learn the lesson the Memphis utility is learning the hard way (after losing their Sixth Circuit appeal): if the accommodation is objectively reasonable, it should be granted despite a boss's subjective beliefs.

Fired Theater Clerk Must Get More Back Pay, Court Says

David Pittington was trying to make a living as a low wage-earner in a small-town, Tennessee theater.

He worked in a wooden shack outside, collecting $8 to $10 an hour. He didn't complain too much, except about how management treated his wife, who also worked there.

When the company fired him, he sued for wrongful discharge. A jury gave him $10,000 in back pay, but an appeals court said that wasn't enough in Pittington v. Great Smokey Mountain Lumberjack Feud.

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.