Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Hardaway v. Howard Industries, Inc.
In the case before the Supreme Court of Mississippi, Vince Hardaway brought an action against his employer, Howard Industries, Inc., claiming bad faith denial of his workers’ compensation benefits for temporary partial disability due to carpal tunnel syndrome. Howard Industries had contracted CorVel Enterprise, a third-party claims administrator, to manage workers’ compensation claims. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Howard Industries, finding that the company's conduct did not constitute gross negligence or an independent tort.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the trial court's decision. The court found that under Mississippi Code Section 71-3-125(1), Howard Industries was permitted to delegate its duty to administer employee workers’ compensation claims to CorVel. The Court also determined that Hardaway failed to provide sufficient evidence that Howard Industries acted with actual malice or gross negligence in denying his benefits. Therefore, his claims did not survive summary judgment. The court held that any failure to pay benefits by Howard Industries under these circumstances did not amount to gross negligence. View "Hardaway v. Howard Industries, Inc." on Justia Law
Gammons v. Adroit Medical Systems, Inc.
The United States Court of Appeals affirmed a district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Adroit Medical Systems, Inc., Grazyna Gammons, Kelley Patten, and Gene Gammons. The plaintiff, Scott Gammons, alleged that his father and stepfamily, who controlled the family business, Adroit, were diverting company funds for personal use without accounting for tax consequences. He claimed that after he reported their financial misdeeds to the IRS, they fired him. Scott brought an action under federal and state whistleblower statutes and state common law.The court found that while Scott’s reporting of alleged financial malfeasance to the IRS was protected conduct and may have contributed to his termination, the defendants had clear and convincing evidence that they would have fired Scott due to his attempted hostile takeover of the company, irrespective of his whistleblowing. Scott had obtained an emergency conservatorship over his father, Gene, which he used to control the family business. When the conservatorship was dissolved, the defendants regained control and promptly fired Scott.Scott also brought claims under the Tennessee Public Protection Act (TPPA) and state common law. The court found that Scott failed to show that the defendants’ legitimate reason for terminating him was pretextual. The court also rejected Scott’s state common law claims, holding that the individual defendants were immune from tortious interference claims as they were acting within their corporate capacities and did not personally benefit from Scott’s termination. View "Gammons v. Adroit Medical Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor
Petitioner was employed at Office Depot as a senior financial analyst. He was responsible for, among other things, ensuring data integrity. One of Ronnie’s principal duties was to calculate and report a metric called “Sales Lift.” Sales Lift is a metric designed to quantify the cost-reduction benefit of closing redundant retail stores. Petitioner identified two potential accounting errors that he believed signaled securities fraud related to the Sales Lift. Petitioner alleged that after he reported the issue, his relationship with his boss became strained. Eventually, Petitioner was terminated at that meeting for failing to perform the task of identifying the cause of the data discrepancy. Petitioner filed complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and OSHA dismissed his complaint. Petitioner petitioned for review of the ARB’s decision. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that Petitioner failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that a reasonable person with his training and experience would believe this conduct constituted a SOX violation, the ARB’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. The court wrote that Petitioner’s assertions that Office Depot intentionally manipulated sales data and that his assigned task of investigating the discrepancy was a stalling tactic are mere speculation, which alone is not enough to create a genuine issue of fact as to the objective reasonableness of Petitioner’s belief. View "Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law
Metropolitan Washington Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. v. DC
Metropolitan Washington Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (“Metro Washington”), a corporate trade organization representing construction companies, brought this pre-enforcement challenge to the constitutionality of the District of Columbia First Source Employment Agreement Act of 1984. The statute requires contractors on D.C. government-assisted projects to grant hiring preferences to D.C. residents. Metro Washington appealed the district court’s Rule 12 dismissals of the claims under the dormant Commerce Clause, U.S. Const. and the Privileges and Immunities Clause, and the grant of summary judgment to the District of Columbia on the substantive due process claim. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of Metro Washington’s dormant Commerce Clause claim and Rule 12(c) dismissal of the Privileges and Immunities Clause claim. The court also affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the District of Columbia on the inapplicability of the Privileges and Immunities Clause to a corporation. Further, although Metro Washington has Article III standing as an association, it lacks third-party standing to raise its alternative Privileges and Immunities claim based on incorporation through the Fifth Amendment, and therefore the court dismissed this alternative contention. View "Metropolitan Washington Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. v. DC" on Justia Law
Jaludi v. Citigroup & Co.
Jaludi worked at Citigroup. After he reported company wrongdoing, he was demoted, transferred, and (in 2013) terminated. He claims Citigroup blacklisted him from the financial industry. In 2015, Jaludi sued Citigroup for retaliation under both the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and RICO. The district court sent his claims to arbitration. Jaludi appealed the arbitration order. In early 2018, while that appeal was pending, he filed an administrative complaint with the Secretary of Labor, adding one new allegation that, in late 2017, a headhunter had stopped returning his calls. In 2019, the Third Circuit remanded, holding that he was not required to arbitrate his Sarbanes-Oxley claims.On remand, the district court dismissed, finding his administrative complaint untimely. Though Sarbanes-Oxley required an administrative complaint within 180 days of the retaliatory conduct, he had waited more than two years after the last incident. Jaludi argued that the court should have granted him leave to amend because the 2017 allegation that he added in his administrative complaint happened fewer than 180 days before that complaint, making it timely. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although neither filing the administrative complaint after the statute of limitations had run nor suing before exhausting his administrative remedies was jurisdictional under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Jaludi’s delay in filing justified the dismissal. View "Jaludi v. Citigroup & Co." on Justia Law
Evans v. Avande, Inc.
Evans served as CEO and a director of Avande, a privately held Delaware corporation that provides medical claims management services to insurance companies and healthcare organizations. Following Evans’s termination, Avande performed an audit and discovered suspect transactions undertaken by Evans while he was serving as CEO. Avande filed suit, alleging breach of fiduciary duty based on alleged self-dealing transactions and improper expenditures and tortious interference, defamation, and conversion based on acts that Evans allegedly committed after his termination. Evans was found liable for about $65,000 in damages, plus interest. Evans demanded advancement for expenses incurred in connection with the action.The Delaware Chancery court entered judgment in favor of Avande. Avande established that there is no causal link between Evans’s status as a former officer of Avande and the tortious inference and defamation claims; those claims solely concerned Evans’s post-termination conduct. Avande demonstrated that Evans did not succeed but was found liable. View "Evans v. Avande, Inc." on Justia Law
Indeck Energy Services, Inc. v. DePodesta
Indeck develops, owns, and operates conventional and alternative fuel power plants. DePodesta, Indeck's vice president of business development, had overall responsibility for Indeck’s electrical generation project development efforts. Dahlstrom was director of business development. DePodesta and Dahlstrom had signed confidentiality agreements.In 2010, Dahlstrom founded HEV, a consulting firm that develops electrical power generation projects. DePodesta later became a member of HEV. In 2013, DePodesta, Dahlstrom, and HEV formed an LLC to develop natural-gas-fired, simple cycle power plants in Texas. The two subsequently copied and removed from Indeck’s premises thousands of documents and files. DePodesta resigned from Indeck on November 1, 2013, and Dahlstrom on November 4. They did not tell anyone at Indeck that they intended to pursue an opportunity with a new LLC. In 2014, Indeck filed suit, alleging breach of the confidentiality agreements and fiduciary duties,” seeking injunctive relief and disgorgement.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. Indeck’s confidentiality agreement was unenforceable as overbroad and Indeck failed to prove it had sustained injury based on any breach. Any profits from breaches of fiduciary duty after the defendants were speculative; there was no identifiable fund traceable to those breaches, so a constructive trust was not available. However, defendants breached their fiduciary duties during their employment and were required to disgorge their salaries. Indeck failed to prove the injury necessary for its claim of usurpation of a corporate opportunity. View "Indeck Energy Services, Inc. v. DePodesta" on Justia Law
Xanthopoulos v. United States Department of Labor Administrative Review Board
Xanthopoulos, a Mercer consultant, detected securities fraud; his internal complaints failed. He went to the SEC website, and, in March 2014, Xanthopoulos submitted his first TCR Form. Unlike the Sarbanes-Oxley OSHA Form, which may be used to notify OSHA of a Sarbanes-Oxley complaint, the SEC’s TCR Form does not affirmatively indicate that submission of the form will initiate a formal lawsuit under the federal securities law. Xanthopoulos allegedly submitted seven TCR Forms through June 2018; in his 2018 submissions, he mentioned Mercer’s mistreatment of him as an employee, not just the securities fraud. Every TCR Form Xanthopoulos submitted specifically referenced a whistleblowing award.As Xanthopoulos predicted in those filings, Mercer fired him in October 2017. Xanthopoulos filed an OSHA administrative complaint in September 2018, alleging violations of Sarbanes-Oxley’s anti-retaliation provision, 18 U.S.C. 1514A. OSHA dismissed the complaint as untimely because Xanthopoulos filed 350 days after Mercer discharged him. He responded that “there was no 180-day-period in which [he] could have decided in clear conscience, that [he] had every information needed, to contact OSHA.” Xanthopoulos, then represented by counsel, argued that he filed his claim in the wrong forum, which tolled the statute of limitations: the TCR Forms constituted Sarbanes-Oxley claims mistakenly filed with the SEC. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The reports to the SEC did not toll the 180-day period for his Sarbanes-Oxley complaint. Xanthopoulos has not articulated a sufficient ground to equitably toll his untimely complaint. View "Xanthopoulos v. United States Department of Labor Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law
Prince v. Appleton Auto LLC
Applecars is a member of a network of Wisconsin used-car dealerships. McCormick owned a majority share in each dealership. Each dealership received management services from Capital M, which McCormick also owned. Capital M tracked shared dealership inventory, held employee records, and issued identical employee handbooks for each dealership; Capital M’s operations manager hired and fired each dealership’s general manager. The employees of each dealership gathered as one for events several times per year. The dealerships advertised on a single website, which included some language suggesting a single entity and some indicators that each dealership is a separate entity. Each dealership properly maintained corporate formalities and records. Capital M billed each dealership separately. Each dealership had a distinct general manager, bank accounts, and financial reports. The dealerships separately filed and paid taxes, paid employees, and entered into contracts.Prince worked at Applecars for several months before he was fired. Prince claims his firing was retaliatory and sued Applecars and its affiliates for racial discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The court granted the defendants summary judgment, noting that Applecars had fewer than 15 employees and was not subject to Title VII. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There is insufficient evidence to support Prince’s theory that the court should pierce the corporate veil of the network, aggregating the number of employees such that Title VII would apply. View "Prince v. Appleton Auto LLC" on Justia Law
Jaludi v. Citigroup
Jaludi began working for Citigroup in 1985 and rose steadily through the ranks. Jaludi was laid off and terminated in 2013 after reporting certain improprieties in Citigroup’s internal complaint monitoring system. Jaludi, believing Citigroup had fired him in retaliation for his reporting, sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962 (RICO), and the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, 18 U.S.C. 1514A. Citigroup moved to compel arbitration, relying on two Employee Handbooks. The 2009 Employee Handbook, contained an arbitration agreement requiring arbitration of all claims arising out of employment—including Sarbanes–Oxley claims. In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which amended Sarbanes–Oxley to prohibit pre-dispute agreements to arbitrate whistleblower claims, 18 U.S.C. 1514A(e)). In 2011, Citigroup and Jaludi agreed to the 2011 Employee Handbook; the arbitration agreement appended to that Handbook excluded “disputes which by statute are not arbitrable” and deleted Sarbanes–Oxley from the list of arbitrable claims. Nonetheless, the district court held that arbitration was required for all of Jaludi’s claims. The Third Circuit reversed in part. Although Jaludi’s RICO claim falls within the scope of either Handbook’s arbitration provision, the operative 2011 arbitration agreement supersedes the 2009 arbitration agreement and prohibits the arbitration of Sarbanes–Oxley claims. View "Jaludi v. Citigroup" on Justia Law