NOTICE:   Due to upcoming bar meetings, summer holidays and vacations, beginning next week our weekly emails will include only selected unpublished cases for the rest of the summer.  All Supreme Court and published Eleventh Circuit labor or employment cases will be included as usual.  

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals 
Weekly Update
 June 21, 2019

Published Cases

There were no published labor or employment cases last week.

A published case not involving labor or employment law issues but which might be of interest is  Finnegan v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue , Case No. 17-10676 (June 11, 2019). Among the issues addressed in  Finnegan was the application of the FRE 804(b)(3) statement-against-interest hearsay exception. The Court held that the tax court properly admitted prior trial testimony of the appellants’ accountant in a criminal case where he offered testimony of his own wrongdoing as part of his testimony against his former business associate. The Court rejected the appellant’s argument that because the accountant had already pled guilty, the statements were not actually against his interest, because the statements could be considered by the judge in his sentencing where he had not been granted immunity for his testimony.   
Unpublished Cases
In  Cornell v. Brennan , Case No. 18-12737 (June 13, 2019), the Court affirmed summary judgment for the employer on the plaintiff’s claim of sex discrimination. Cornell contended that he was the victim of gender-based discrimination and harassment because his supervisors at the U.S. Postal Service enforced the uniform policy as to him but permitted certain female employees to violate the policy without consequence. The Court held that Cornell’s discrimination claim failed because he did not show that he had been subjected to an adverse employment action, and his harassment claim failed because no evidence supported any determination that the work environment was objectively hostile.  

In Ellison v. St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System, Inc. Case No. 18-10840 (June 13, 2019), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the employer on Ellison’s Title VII and Section 1981 claims that the employer terminated her in retaliation for complaining about race discrimination.  

Ellison, a black woman, worked as a patient care technician, under registered nurses, as part of a hospital care team. She reported an incident wherein she contended a nurse uttered a racial epithet. During the employer’s investigation, several coworkers complained about Ellison’s attitude and unwillingness to contribute to the team and the charge nurse forwarded several patient complaints to management. After reviewing the e-mails, the department director met with Ellison and made the decision to terminate. The Court opined that Ellison did not sufficiently rebut the employer’s two legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for her termination (patient complaints and complaints about her inability to work with others) and a jury could not reasonably conclude that the employer fired her in retaliation for reporting racial discrimination.    

Although she asserted the director did not believe the patient complaints because he recommended she contact a “sitting” agency for employment, the Court concluded that it was not inherently contradictory for her to be fired based upon patient complaints, while the employer provided her contact information for a different type of employment. Ellison also provided no evidence to show the director did not honestly believe her colleague’s complaints or supervisor’s conclusion that she violated the hospital’s “Co-Worker Compact.” 

While the Court agreed it was troubling that there was another incident wherein a  patient care technician   w as fired shortly after reporting the same nurse for using a racial slur, it noted that the reasons for that firing were considerably different and opined that the evidence did not create a triable issue because different decision makers were involved. The Court, therefore, concluded that there was no inference of pretext on the basis of the facts surrounding the other patient care technician’s termination.  

Furcron v. Maid Centers Plus, LLC , Case No. 18-12598 (June 12, 2019), involved interpretation of a jury verdict. At trial of the Furcron’s Title VII sexual harassment claim, the jury found in her favor on liability, found that she had suffered damages as a result of the harassment, but did not award any damages. The trial court rejected Furcron’s contention that the verdict was inconsistent, but granted equitable relief ordering the employer to update its harassment training and to file a copy of Furcron’s complaint and the jury verdict in her personnel file. On review, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the order regarding training since it would not benefit Furcron as she was no longer employed there, but affirmed the order regarding her personnel file as it would provide a more complete picture of her employment. The Court also affirmed the denial of a new trial on damages, concluding that the jury could have concluded that the evidence was insufficient to justify any monetary compensation.

In  Nieman v. National Claims Adjusters, Inc . , Case No 18-14391 (June 11, 2019), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint raising FLSA claims, as well as a claim under  26 U.S.C. §7434 for filing fraudulent tax information returns, agreeing that the allegations of the complaint established that the plaintiff was properly classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee. Noting that the issue of whether an individual is an “employee” under the economic realities test is one of law, the Court concluded that the amended complaint alleged facts that weighed in favor of contractor status as to four of the six factors of the test, and were neutral as to the other two.  

In Rodriguez v. Miami Dade County Public Housing and Community Development , Case No. 18-13602 (June 13, 2019), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the county employer on Rodriguez’s Title VII retaliatory termination claim, reasoning the plaintiff’s general complaint that her supervisor harassed her, with no mention of any belief that it was due to her national origin, was insufficient to establish she engaged in a statutorily protected activity. The Eleventh Circuit also upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of the county on Rodriguez’s Title VII national origin discrimination claim. Rodriguez’s argument that the verdict was unsupported by the evidence failed because she did not move for a directed verdict at trial and she did not provide the Court with a complete transcript of the hearing as was her burden.  
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.