Justices Deny Review in Four Workplace Cases on March 26

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Following are summaries of four labor- and employment-related cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court denied review on March 26, 2018:

Employment and Labor

17-1122 White v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth.

Ruling below (4th Cir., 698 F. App’x 143, 2017 BL 357736): The ruling below is affirmed. A former police officer appealed the district court’s order granting summary judgment to his employer on claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There was no reversible error by the district court.

Questions presented: (1) Did the Fourth Circuit err in finding that the employer didn’t retaliate against the petitioner after the petitioner assisted another employee? (2) Did the Fourth Circuit err in finding that the employee didn’t violate the petitioner’s Family and Medical Leave Act right to be reinstated when the employer refused to reinstate the petitioner to his original position? (3) Did the Fourth Circuit err in finding that the employer didn’t violate the petitioner’s Title VII ADA discrimination rights? (4) Did the Fourth Circuit err in finding that the employer didn’t violate the petitioner’s Title VII right by making an unlawful medical inquiry? (5) Did the Fourth Circuit err when it affirmed the summary judgment of the district court that was issued because of discriminatory, unlawful medical inquiry that wasn’t returned to the employer’s contracted physician?

Employment Discrimination

17-959 Idaho Dept. of Corrections v. Fuller

Ruling below (9th Cir., 865 F.3d 1154, 2017 BL 264681): The district court’s summary judgment in favor of the Idaho Department of Corrections in a sexual harassment dispute is reversed. A female former county parole officer who was raped twice by a senior officer outside the workplace has a triable issue of fact regarding whether department of corrections created a hostile work environment by “effectively condoning” rapes. The plaintiff alleged that while her attacker was being investigated, she was told by a co-worker that the senior officer was “known for this sort of thing” and that the department head anticipated the attacker’s prompt return and encouraged co-workers to reach out to the attacker with words of encouragement.

Question presented: Did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit err by reversing the district court’s grant of summary judgment and allowing the plaintiff-appellant to proceed with her sexual harassment case without having to make any showing that the allegedly harassing conduct was due to her sex?

Insurance

17-1067 Hood v. Office of Pers. Mgmt.

Ruling below (6th Cir., 2017 BL 334546, unpublished): The district court’s judgment in favor of the Office of Personnel Management is affirmed. OPM said the plaintiff wasn’t eligible for Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance benefits upon the death of his mother, a former employee of the U.S. Postal Service, because she had submitted a form canceling her coverage on March 18, 2002. The district court ruled that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the six-year statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a) because the claim accrued not upon his mother’s death but in 2002 when OPM notified her that it accepted her waiver and canceled her coverage. The plaintiff alleged that when his mother waived her FEGLI benefits, she was under the influence of a cocktail of drugs and lacked the mental capacity to sign the waiver.

Questions presented: (1) Did the Sixth Circuit err by holding that the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Act doesn’t impose any duties upon OPM to determine an annuitant’s mental capacity or level of intoxication before accepting a waiver of FEGLI benefits? (2) Did the Sixth Circuit and trial court err by holding that the statute of limitations barred this claim under the FEGLIA?

17-1073 Griffin v. Viking Range, LLC

Ruling below (N.D. Ga., 12/28/17): The defendants’ motions to dismiss are granted, and the plaintiff’s complaint is dismissed. Plaintiff medical provider sued a health plan and its administrator under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to recover payments for services provided to a patient. Patient had assigned all her rights under her plan to the provider, but the plan’s contract with the patient states that no assignment is valid without the plan’s consent. A retroactive assignment of additional rights wasn’t effective against the plan as a third party.

Question presented: Does a plan administrator and/or plan fiduciary of an ERISA-governed welfare benefit plan waive the right to assert provider anti-assignment provisions when the plan fiduciaries failed to notify the provider of the anti-assignment provision during the administrative appeals process?

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