Iowa Employment Law Blog

Iowa Employment Law Blog

Alert and inform about legal issues, risks, and solutions relating to employees

Category Archives: Litigation and Trials

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Summary Judgement in Employment Discrimination Cases May Be Making a Comeback in Iowa State Court

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Human Resources Compliance, Iowa Appellate Courts, Litigation and Trials
As we have written here many times, summary judgment is an important tool for defendants in employment discrimination cases.   Studies have shown that in federal court, summary judgment is granted to defendants in employment discrimination cases more than in any other type of case.  These studies confirm the experience of most employment lawyers who try… Continue Reading

Court Affirms Six-Figure Verdict to Nursing Mother Who Quit Because of Employer’s Failure to Provide Suitable Breastfeeding Accommodation

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Sex Discrimination, Title VII
Employers that accommodate employees’ temporary disabilities should consider extending the practice to nursing mothers returning to work following maternity leave.   That’s the lesson of a recent opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit  (Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 11th Cir., 9/7/2017)    In Hicks, a City police department’s insistence that… Continue Reading

Uncertainty Over the Future of Salary Test Remains Despite Court Ruling Invalidating Obama-Era Increase

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Wage and Hour
On August 31, 2017, Judge Amos Mazzant in the Eastern District of Texas issued a final ruling invalidating the Obama Department of Labor’s increase in the minimum salary for exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  This is the same judge that issued the preliminary injunction on November 22, 2016 that prevented the rule… Continue Reading

Have Big Jury Verdicts in Discrimination Cases Suddenly Become the New Normal in Iowa?

Posted in Litigation and Trials
It’s been a difficult three months for central Iowa employers.   May, June, and July each saw a million dollar plus plaintiff verdict in an employment discrimination lawsuit.    One such verdict in these parts is notable, but three in three months is unheard of until now.  Back in January, we noticed juries in other parts of… Continue Reading

Is it Really Possible the DOL’s Increase of the Minimum Salary for Exempt Employees Could Come Back?

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Wage and Hour
This time last year many employers were anxious about the new Department of Labor Rule that raised the minimum salary for exempt employees to $913 per week, more than double the existing minimum of $455.   The Rule was scheduled to become effective December 1, 2016.   Then, in a surprising stroke of fortune, on November 22,… Continue Reading

What to Make of Big Verdicts in Employment Cases: Aberration or Harbinger of Things to Come?

Posted in Litigation and Trials
Last month in Jackson County, Missouri (Kansas City), two different juries issued eye-popping plaintiff verdicts in employment discrimination cases.    In one case, a jury awarded Deborah Miller $450,000 in compensatory damages and a whopping $20 million in punitive damages.  Miller sued American Family Insurance for age and sex discrimination and retaliation after she lost her… Continue Reading

Does the ADA Require Reassignment to a Vacant Position as a Reasonable Accommodation?

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials
It’s an all too common situation: an employee’s medical condition results in permanent restrictions that prevent the employee from performing essential job functions that she used to be able to do.   It is not reasonable to modify the job so the employee can keep the position.   There is a vacancy in another department for which… Continue Reading

Iowa Employers Should Re-Examine Policies on Pregnancy Accommodation

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Sex Discrimination, U.S. Supreme Court
How to best accommodate pregnant employees is a frequent challenge Iowa employers face.    Pregnant employees may be entitled to protection under the laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, as well as those requiring equal treatment based upon gender and disability.  Many employers have tried to walk this fine line with policies that allow… Continue Reading

Another Court Rules Agreement to Arbitrate Employment Disputes is Enforceable

Posted in Litigation and Trials
Employers who want to bypass jury trials of employment disputes in favor of arbitration got another boost in a recent case from the Eastern District of Missouri. In Karzon v. AT&T, Inc. (E.D. Mo. 1/7/14), the court ruled that E-mail notification of an arbitration proposal combined with an “opt-put” option was sufficient to bind employees to the… Continue Reading

Don’t Assume An Applicant Is Not Qualified Because a Doctor Says So…

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials
A federal district court in Michigan recently granted summary judgment for the plaintiff, (you read that correctly), ruling that the employer was liable for disability discrimination as a matter of law. (Lafata v. Dearborn Heights Sch. Dist. No.7 (E.D. Mich. 12/11/2013)).   A plaintiff hardly ever files for summary judgment in an employment case, let alone… Continue Reading

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Against Catholic Diocese of Sioux City Tests the Limits of the Ministerial Exception

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Religion
The CFO of Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools in Sioux City claims he was terminated because he is not Catholic.   He recently sued the Diocese, the school, and the Bishop alleging his termination violated the law against discrimination on the basis of religion. Does he have a case? Courts in the United States have uniformly recognized a… Continue Reading

Reinstatement of Jury Award After Employer Victory Shows Failure to Mitigate Defense Hard to Prove

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Litigation and Trials
The best outcome to a discrimination lawsuit from the employer’s perspective is to win outright—for the judge or jury to find that the employer did not unlawfully discriminate. But, even if you lose, there is a “Plan B” defense—the failure to mitigate damages.   An employee who is terminated (or not hired in the first place) can… Continue Reading

Employee Must Request Extension of Leave to Avoid Application of No-Fault Leave Policy

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials
Fixed or no-fault leave policies were once considered easy way to manage attendance and long term leave of absence issues.   Once the employee reaches the maximum number of absences, or is gone the maximum number of weeks on medical leave, the employee is terminated; no questions asked, no exceptions.   The benefit of these kinds of… Continue Reading

Court Rules Government Agency Violated Employer’s Due Process Rights in Connection with Whistleblower Investigation

Posted in Eighth Circuit, Litigation and Trials
Good news for employers—you have due process rights too. So ruled the court in Business Communications, Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Education  (8th Cir. 12/2/13).  The Federal Government awarded Business Communications, Inc. (BCI) contracts to install cables in two school districts. The money for the project was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA” a/k/a the… Continue Reading

Court Finds FMLA Interference Even Though Employee Was Not Qualified to Return to Former Job Because of Her Medical Condition

Posted in FMLA, Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials
FMLA provides a qualifying employee up twelve weeks of job protected leave. That means the employee is entitled to return to the same position held before the leave, or to an “equivalent position” with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions.   FMLA does not require an employer to restore employment if the employee is unable… Continue Reading

Iowa Court of Appeals Rules that ADA Amendments Apply to Iowa Civil Rights Act, Even in the Absence of Legislative Action

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Iowa Appellate Courts, Litigation and Trials
A divided panel of the Iowa Court of Appeals recently ruled that the rules of construction in the ADA as amended in 2008 apply to the Iowa Civil RIghts Act when determining what constitutes a disability (Knudsen v. Tiger Tots Community Child Care Center, No. 2-1011, 1/9/13). Although Knudsen is a public accommodation and not an employment case, the opinion… Continue Reading

Critics are Unfairly Attacking the Iowa Supreme Court’s Sex Discrimination Ruling in Nelson v. Knight

Posted in Iowa Appellate Courts, Litigation and Trials, Sex Discrimination
Never has a Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in an employment dispute generated such strong reaction, not only locally, but internationally.   The case, of course, is Nelson v. Knight, the December 21, 2012 ruling involving the Fort Dodge dentist who was irresistibly attracted to one of his dental assistants. Dr. Knight’s wife, who also worked in his practice, found text messages… Continue Reading

Don’t Forget About the Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies Defense: Eighth Circuit Holds that it Still Applies to Retaliation Claims, Overruling Precedent to the Contrary

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Title VII
Title VII requires an employee alleging unlawful discrimination or retaliation to file an administrative charge with the EEOC (or a similar a state or local agency with authority to seek relief) before bringing a suit in court.   EEOC is charged with investigating claims and pursuing conciliation between the employee and employer where appropriate. The purpose of the… Continue Reading

Court Applies “Cat’s Paw” Theory to Liquidated Damages under FMLA

Posted in FMLA, Litigation and Trials
Under the FMLA, liquidated damages are a form of “extra” damage a court may award over and above other damages an employee is awarded.   The employer can avoid liquidated damages, however, if it proves the FMLA violation was in good faith, that is, the employer reasonably believed its action did not violate the FMLA. Marez v. Saint Gobain… Continue Reading