Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals 
Weekly Update
 May 19, 2019

Published Cases

There were no published labor or employment cases last week.
Unpublished Cases
Case No. 18-11433
May 10, 2019

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment against Carpenter on his Section 1983 claim that alleged the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation (UABHSF) violated his property interest in continued employment when it wrongfully discharged him without a pre-termination hearing. The Court found Carpenter resigned voluntarily and therefore he could not establish a deprivation.

Carpenter worked for UABHSF as a tenured faculty member and oncologist specializing in breast cancer. His separation from employment arose out of his treatment of a breast cancer patient. Carpenter had treated the patient with hormone therapy for approximately two years before beginning chemotherapy, during which time the patient’s cancer was progressing. After the patient began chemotherapy, she was seen by a radiation oncologist who reported Carpenter to both his supervisor and the risk management committee for inappropriate care of a patient. Consequently, Carpenter attended a meeting with his supervisor and the vice chair of clinical affairs. During the meeting, his supervisor informed him that risk management concluded he could not practice at UAB and stated he should resign; the vice chair explained the alternative: a formal hearing. He cautioned however that any adverse result would be reported to the National Practitioner database. Two days after the meeting, Carpenter again met with his supervisor, who advised “there was zero chance” he could practice at UAB. He then presented Carpenter with a pre-prepared resignation letter, which Carpenter signed.

Relying on  Hargray v. City of Hallandale , the Court explained there are two circumstances in which an employee’s resignation would be deemed involuntary such that it would qualify as a deprivation under the due process clause: (1) when the employer “forces the resignation by coercion or duress” or (2) “obtains the resignation by deceiving or misrepresenting a material fact to the employee.” Carpenter’s only preserved appellate contention was that he was forced to resign under duress. In evaluating Carpenter’s claim, the Court analyzed the list of factors identified in the  Hargray decision to determine the voluntariness of Carpenter’s resignation and concluded a reasonable jury could not find he was forced to resign. The Court reasoned Carpenter had an alternative to resigning — a formal hearing; he was given a reasonable time to decide between his options; and, though he did not fully understand the procedures governing the hearing, he had an opportunity to learn about the procedures prior to submitting his resignation but failed to do so. 
Case No. 18-14371
May 7, 2019

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and against the individual defendant for damages under the FLSA, and imposed sanctions for a frivolous appeal against the defendant.  

Galardi owned and operated a dance club. Espinoza and other employees brought their FLSA claims against the corporate employer and Galardi individually. Galardi filed a motion for summary judgment as to whether she was an employer in her individual capacity, which the district court denied concluding that factual issues existed. At trial, the jury found in favor of the dancers against both defendants and the district court entered judgment accordingly.  

Galardi appealed contending that the district court erroneously denied summary judgment, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence against her, and challenging evidentiary rulings. The Court summarily rejected the first two grounds on procedural grounds:  Ortiz precludes review of the denial of summary judgment where the issues have subsequently been fully tried on the merits; and the defendant  failed to preserve her sufficiency arguments because she did not file Rule 50 and 59 post-trial motions. The Court also rejected her contention that the plaintiffs’ use of written damages summaries during their testimony was impermissible, agreeing that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the witnesses were permissibly refreshing their recollections as to their calculations. Finally, the Court granted the plaintiffs’ Fed.R.App.P. 38 motion for fees and double costs against the defendant and counsel, because the appeal was “utterly devoid of merit” and defendant’s counsel failed to cite controlling precedent that procedurally barred two arguments and inadequately briefed the third.  
Case No. 18-13738
May 10, 2019

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Hale’s claims for tortious interference with a business relationship under Florida Law, and for retaliation based on protected association in violation of the First Amendment.  

Hale contended that his school district superintendent, Husfelt, improperly influenced adverse employment action taken against him in retaliation for conduct engaged in by his parents. Between 2008 and 2016 Hale’s parents, who were employed by the school board, openly opposed Husfelt’s election and re-election for superintendent, were terminated, and filed a lawsuit challenging their terminations. In December 2010 Hale was hired to teach and to serve as the head football coach at a charter school, whose charter was issued by the school board. In January 2015, he was notified by his principal that his contract as football coach was terminated because the school wanted to “go in a different direction.” Although the principal had stated she wanted him to continue teaching, his annual contract was not renewed for the next school year. The principal told an assistant principal that the decision came from “above her,” which the assistant understood meant the charter school CEO. Hale was then hired as the assistant football coach at Bay High School (“BHS”) for the upcoming school year and was told by the head football coach that he wanted to help Hale secure a teaching position. However, the coach had no involvement in the hiring process. Hale was interviewed by a three-person panel for a history teaching position, was ranked sixth out of those interviewed, and was not offered the position. He later filed suit.  

Opining that the district court need not accept factual allegations that are based only on speculation and conjecture, the Court rejected Hale’s assertion that the charter school principal presented inconsistent reasons for his separation and Hale’s disagreement with those reasons, explaining it was not a “ ’super personnel department’ assessing the prudence of routine employment decision .” The principal denied that the superintendent was involved in the decision to fire Hale and no evidence contradicted that testimony. Hale testified that the school CEO pulled strings with the superintendent to secure funding for a gym and that he saw them talking together the day he was fired; however, that speculation was not sufficient to support the inference that the superintendent was involved in the decision to terminate his coaching contract. While Hale asserted he was the preferred candidate for the history teaching position, the football coach’s preferences said nothing about Hale’s qualifications as teacher and Hale’s subjective belief that he was more qualified than the selected candidate was immaterial. Because Hale failed to presented evidence to support a reasonable inference that the superintendent was involved or interfered with the hiring decision both claims failed. 
Case No. 18-11227
May 9, 2019

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment and judgment as a matter of law on the plaintiff’s First Amendment retaliation and public-sector Whistle-blower’s Act claims in a short opinion without a factual recitation.  

Based on the brief discussion of facts in the district court’s  order , Rabon was employed as a captain in the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, and he was reassigned and subsequently demoted to deputy after dissension within a unit he supervised. He had made allegations against employees outside his unit and contended that his change in status was retaliatory. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that none of his complaints met the  requirements for First Amendment protection for employees. As to the Whistle-blower’s Act claim, the Court also concluded, after reviewing the record and applying the  McDonnell Douglas standards pursuant to  Florida jurisprudence , that the plaintiff had failed to offer sufficient evidence of pretext. 
A case not involving labor or employment law issues but which might be of interest is  Page v. Hicks , Case No. 18-10963 (May 10, 2019). Page, a former student at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, brought procedural and substantive Due Process claims against the UAB trustees and various individual defendants after her academic dismissal from the school’s nursing anesthesia program. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the claims, concluding that the official capacity claims were barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity notwithstanding  Lapides, citing  Stroud v. McIntosh , and that the individual capacity claims failed to state a claim of denial of due process given the limited process required for academic due process and the extensive proceedings the school provided Page. [ Author’s Note : It is not clear whether the defendants made an alternative argument that the official capacity claims would have been barred by  Will v. Michigan even had Eleventh Amendment immunity been deemed waived, but the issue was not addressed in the opinion.] 
The Eleventh Circuit Weekly Update was prepared by Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission staff: case summaries by Chairman Frank E. Brown, and Appellate Counsel Cristina A. Velez and Katie E. Sabo; editing by Deputy General Counsel and Chief Appellate Attorney Amanda L. Neff; research and layout by Research Attorney Lesley Blanton.