CIVIL RIGHTS-AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT ACT-EMPLOYER-MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT

November 14th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Mount Lemmon Fire Dist. V. Guido, 2018 U.S. Supreme Ct. LEXIS 6639 (November 6, 2018) Ginsburg, J. Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court. Faced with a budget shortfall, Mount Lemmon Fire District, a political subdivision in Arizona, laid off its two oldest full-time firefighters, John Guido (then 46) and Dennis Rankin (then 54). Guido and Rankin sued the Fire District, alleging that their termination violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 81 Stat. 602, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §621 et seq. The Fire District sought dismissal of the suit on the ground that the District was too small to qualify as an “employer” within the ADEA’s compass. The Act’s controlling definitional provision, 29 U.S.C. §639(b), reads: “The term ‘employer’ means a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has twenty or more employees….The term also means (1) any agent of such a person, and (2) a State or political subdivision of State….” The question presented: Does the ADEA’s numerosity specification (20 or more employees), applicable to “a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce,” apply as well to state entities (including state political subdivisions)?…

CIVIL RIGHTS ACT-IMMUNITY-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY-SEARCH OF EMPLOYEE’S EMAILS

October 11th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Walker v. Coffey, 3d 2018 LEXIS 26684 (September 20, 2018) Roth, J.  Appellant Carol Lee Walker commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She alleges that Appellees—a prosecutor and a special agent employed by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General (OAG)—violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search when they used an invalid subpoena to induce Walker’s employer, Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), to produce her work emails. The District Court granted Appellees’ motion to dismiss, concluding that they were entitled to qualified immunity because Walker did not have a clearly established right to privacy in the content of her work emails. For the reasons stated below, we will affirm the dismissal of Walker’s § 1983 claim. We will vacate the District Court’s denial of Walker’s subsequent motion for leave to file a second amended complaint asserting claims under the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. As such, we would be hard put to find that Walker enjoyed a clearly established right to privacy in the content of her work emails. But because this case involves Walker’s…

CIVIL RIGHTS-IMMUNITY-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY-CLEARLY ESTABLISHED-SEXUAL ASSAULT

October 4th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Kane v Barger, 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Cir., LEXIS 23575, (August 22, 2018) Fuentes, J.  On June 27, 2013, Brandy Kane went to the hospital and reported that she may have been the victim of a sexual assault. That night, Officer Shawn Barger of the Coraopolis Police Department went to the hospital to interview Kane regarding the possible assault. At that time, Kane says Barger told her to bring the clothes she wore during the alleged incident to him at the police station. The next day, Kane—accompanied by a friend—brought her clothes to the police station. While there, contrary to department policy, Barger met alone with Kane in a back room of the station. Then, also in violation of department policy, Barger used his personal cell phone to photograph intimate areas of Kane’s body. During this encounter, Barger touched Kane twice. First, rather than relying on Kane to do so, Barger pulled Kane’s shorts down to photograph a bruise on her right buttock. At this point, Kane says she “felt something touch her butt crack which caused her to jump.” Second, again without asking Kane to do so,…

STANDING-AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

September 21st, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Mielo v Steak ‘N Shake Operations, Inc., 2018, U.S. Appeals, 3rd Cir., LEXIS 20793 (July 26, 2018) Smith, J.  In this class action lawsuit, two disability rights advocates have sued Steak ‘N Shake under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Alleging they have personally experienced difficulty ambulating in their wheelchairs through two sloped parking facilities, these Plaintiffs seek to sue on behalf of all physically disabled individuals who may have experienced similar difficulties at Steak ‘N Shake restaurants throughout the country. The District Court certified Plaintiffs’ proposed class, and Steak ‘N Shake now appeals that certification decision. We are tasked with answering two questions: First, whether Plaintiffs have standing under Article III of the United States Constitution, and second, whether they have satisfied the requirements set out in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). As to the first question, we conclude that Plaintiffs have standing to bring their claims in federal court. Although a mere procedural violation of the ADA does not qualify as an injury in fact under Article III, Plaintiffs allege to have personally experienced concrete injuries as a result of ADA violations on at least two occasions.…

CIVIL RIGHTS-DISCRIMINATION-SEX-VICARIOUS LIABILITY

July 13th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Minarsky v. Susquehanna County, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 18189 (3d Cir. July 3, 2018) Rendell, C.J.  Thomas Yadlosky, the former Director of Susquehanna County’s Department of Veterans Affairs, made unwanted sexual advances toward his part-time secretary, Sheri Minarsky, for years. She never reported this conduct and explained in her deposition the reasons she did not do so. Although Yadlosky was warned twice to stop his inappropriate behavior, it was to no avail. The County ultimately terminated Yadlosky when the persistent nature of his behavior toward Minarsky came to light. Minarsky seeks to hold Yadlosky, her supervisor, liable for sexual harassment, and her former employer, Susquehanna County, vicariously liable for said harassment. At issue in this case are the two elements of the FaragherEllerth affirmative defense that Susquehanna County has raised. In granting summary judgment in favor of the County, the District Court held that the elements of this defense had been proven as a matter of law. We conclude that given the facts of this case, the availability of the defense regarding both the first element, whether the County took reasonable care to detect and eliminate the harassment, as well…

CIVIL RIGHTS-TITLE IX-TRANSGENDER STUDENT’S BATHROOM USE

June 22nd, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Joel Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, No. 17-3113 (3d Cir. June 18, 2018) McKee, C.J.  This appeal requires us to decide whether the District Court correctly refused to enjoin the defendant School District from allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with the students’ gender identities as opposed to the sex they were determined to have at birth. The plaintiffs—a group of high school students who identify as being the same sex they were determined to have at birth (cisgender) —believe the policy violated their constitutional rights of bodily privacy, as well as Title IX, and Pennsylvania tort law. As we shall explain, we conclude that, under the circumstances here, the presence of transgender students in the locker and restrooms is no more offensive to constitutional or Pennsylvania-law privacy interests than the 4 presence of the other students who are not transgender. Nor does their presence infringe on the plaintiffs’ rights under Title IX. In an exceedingly thorough, thoughtful, and well-reasoned opinion, the District Court denied the requested injunction based upon its conclusion that the plaintiffs had not shown that they are likely to…

CIVIL RIGHTS-ARREST

May 23rd, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Haberle v. Officer Daniel Troxell, No. 16-2074 (3rd Cir. March 20, 2018) Jordan, C.J.  Timothy Nixon was a troubled man. After stealing a firearm, he told his partner, Nicole Haberle, that he was going to commit suicide. When a police officer employed by the Borough of Nazareth learned of that threat, he did not wait for trained crisis support professionals but instead knocked on the door of the apartment where Nixon was located and announced his presence. Nixon immediately shot himself. Ms. Haberle has sued, on her own behalf and also as the administrator of Nixon’s estate, claiming that that police officer – Daniel Troxell – and other law enforcement officers, and the Borough, violated the Constitution as well as a variety of federal and state statutes. All of her claims were dismissed by the District Court, and she now appeals. Her primary argument is that Troxell unconstitutionally seized Nixon and that Nixon’s suicide was the foreseeable result of a danger that Troxell created. She also argues that the Borough violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-213 (the “ADA”), by, among other things, failing to modify Borough…

CIVIL RIGHTS-RETALIATION-SPEECH

February 22nd, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Bradley v. West Chester University, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1965 (3rd Cir. January 26, 2018) Brann, D.J.  While employed in an administrative position at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Colleen Bradley shared her concerns about one of the school's budget documents with her colleagues. Subsequently, she was informed by her supervisor that her employment contract would not be renewed. Arguing that her speech was protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and that her termination was in retaliation for that speech, she sued the school, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, her supervisor, and several other administrators. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed Ms. Bradley's claim against West Chester and the State System, holding that those institutions were entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. After discovery, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Ms. Bradley's supervisor, Mark Mixner, holding that, although Ms. Bradley's speech was constitutionally protected, Mr. Mixner was entitled to qualified immunity. We will affirm both of these rulings of the District Court. We agree with the District Court's holding…

Defamation-Falsity-Claim Of Sexual Abuse

November 14th, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Rubin v. CBS Broad, Inc., 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 691 (September 8, 2017) Moulton, J. Howard Rubin appeals the October 20, 2015 order entered in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas granting the motion of CBS Broadcasting Inc. d/b/a CBS 3 (“CBS”) for judgment on the pleadings. We reverse and remand for further proceedings. This appeal arises from a news report related to Rubin’s September 2014 termination from his job as a school police officer at Multi-Cultural Academy Charter School (“MACS”) in Philadelphia. The central issue on appeal is whether the substance of that report – that Rubin was fired from his job “over allegations of child sexual abuse” – was sufficiently close to the undisputed facts to warrant judgment on the pleadings for CBS. We conclude that it was not. On May 8, 2015, Rubin filed an amended complaint alleging defamation and false light invasion of privacy claims against both CBS and May. Whether Rubin can meet his burden of proving falsity turns on whether there exists a material difference between the report’s assertion that he was terminated “over allegations of child sexual abuse” and the actual basis…

CIVIL RIGHTS-DRUG TESTING

October 31st, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Borrell v. Bloomsburg Univ., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 16616 (August 30, 2017) Hardiman, C.J.  This appeal—which raises questions involving the state action doctrine and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment—has important ramifications for private hospitals that partner with public universities. Angela Borrell, a student working at a private hospital through a public university's clinical program, was dismissed for refusing to take a drug test in violation of hospital policy. She sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming she was deprived of her property interest in the program without due process. Contrary to the judgment of the District Court, we hold that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  The primary issue on appeal is whether GMC, Richer, or Ficca are liable for denying Borrell due process when she was dismissed from the NAP. Because (A) GMC and Richer are not state actors with respect to Richer's decision to dismiss Borrell and (B) Ficca is entitled to qualified immunity for her involvement in Borrell's termination, we hold that no Defendant is liable to Borrell. Notwithstanding his consultation with others, Richer made the decision to fire someone…