Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
AIRLINES FOR AMERICA V. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO
The City and County of San Francisco (the City) owns and operates San Francisco International Airport (SFO or the Airport). Airlines for America (A4A) represents airlines that contract with the City to use SFO. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City enacted the Healthy Airport Ordinance (HAO), requiring the airlines that use SFO to provide employees with certain health insurance benefits. A4A filed this action in the Northern District of California, alleging that the City, in enacting the HAO, acted as a government regulator and not a market participant, and therefore the HAO is preempted by multiple federal statutes. The district court agreed to the parties’ suggestion to bifurcate the case to first address the City’s market participation defense. The district court held that the City was a market participant and granted its motion for summary judgment. A4A appealed. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The court concluded that two civil penalty provisions of the HAO carry the force of law and thus render the City a regulator rather than a market participant. The court wrote that because these civil penalty provisions result in the City acting as a regulator, it need not determine whether the City otherwise would be a regulator under the Cardinal Towing two-part test set forth in LAX, 873 F.3d at 1080 View "AIRLINES FOR AMERICA V. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO" on Justia Law
Metcalf v. BSC Group, Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court judge granting summary judgment in favor of BSC Companies, Inc., BSC Group, Inc., and the companies' president (collectively, BSC) in this action brought by BSC's former employees alleging claims under the Prevailing Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 26-27H, holding that the contracts at issue were not governed by the Act, and BSC was not required to pay its employees a prevailing wage pursuant to the contracts.At issue were two professional engineering services contracts awarded by the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to BSC. The contracts were not competitively bid and were not awarded to the lowest bidder, unlike contracts for public works construction projects governed by the Act. Further, the contracts did not specify that BSC's employees would be paid at least a prevailing wage determined by the Department of Labor Standards. The superior court judge granted summary judgment to BSC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to a prevailing wage for their work under the professional services contracts. View "Metcalf v. BSC Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Earley v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd.
Five Petitioners argued the Board’s grant-for-study procedure is an unauthorized way to extend the 60-day deadline. A statute requires the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Board) to make a reasoned decision when granting reconsideration. The Second Appellate District granted Petitioners, the Board, and Amicus Curiae’s requests for judicial notice of items relating to the legislative and statutory history of the Board’s reconsideration procedure and to the Board’s records. The court issued a peremptory writ of mandate commanding the Board to end its practice of granting petitions for reconsideration solely for purposes of further study and to comply with section 5908.5 when granting petitions for reconsideration, including the requirement that the Board “state the evidence relied upon and specify in detail the reasons for its decision.” The court also held that the Board is not required to issue a final ruling on the merits within 60 days. Statutory language negates the Petitioners’ argument to the contrary. View "Earley v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd." on Justia Law
Mestek v. Lac Courte Oreilles Community Health Center
The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians is a federally recognized tribe in northwestern Wisconsin. In 2013 the Tribe’s Community Health Center hired Mestek as the Director of Health Information. In 2017 the Health Center implemented a new electronic health records system. Mestek soon raised questions about how the new system operated, expressing concern to management that the Center was improperly billing Medicare and Medicaid. An eventual external audit of the Center’s billing practices uncovered several problems. After receiving the audit results in 2018, Bae, the head of the Health Center, called Mestek into her office to ask if she was “loyal.” Mestek answered yes, but persisted in her efforts to uncover billing irregularities. A month later, Mestek learned that she was being fired in a meeting with the Medical Director and the HR Director. Mestek sued the Health Center and six individuals (in both their personal and official capacities) under the False Claims Act’s anti-retaliation provision, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h). The district court dismissed.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity precluded Mestek from proceeding; the Health Center is an arm of the Tribe. The individual employee defendants also properly invoked the Tribe’s immunity because Mestek sued them in their official capacities. View "Mestek v. Lac Courte Oreilles Community Health Center" on Justia Law
Adam Robinson v. DHS Office of Inspector General
Plaintiff sought judicial review of the Merit Systems Protection Board’s (MSPB) final decision affirming his removal from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but filed his complaint in the district court one day after the statutory deadline prescribed in 5 U.S.C. Section 7703(b)(2). The district court dismissed his complaint as untimely. The district court held in the alternative that Plaintiff had not presented facts to warrant equitable tolling. The DC Circuit affirmed the dismissal on the alternative ground that Robinson failed to show that he was entitled to equitable tolling. The court explained that in light of the combined weight of intervening United States Supreme Court authority and the decisions of the other circuits interpreting section 7703(b)(2) as a non-jurisdictional claims-processing rule since King, the court now holds that section 7703(b)(2)’s thirty-day filing deadline is a non-jurisdictional claims-processing rule. As such, the record shows that Plaintiff chose to mail his complaint by standard mail four days before the statutory filing deadline and assumed the risk his complaint would arrive late. On these facts, Plaintiff’s decision to use standard mail is a 14 “garden variety claim of excusable neglect” insufficient to warrant equitable tolling. View "Adam Robinson v. DHS Office of Inspector General" on Justia Law
GRFCO, Inc. v. Super. Ct.
The California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (Division) debarred the following from acting as public works contractors: (1) GRFCO, Inc. (GRFCO), a contractor; (2) George Rogers Frost, the principal in GRFCO; (3) Garcia Juarez Construction (GJC), a contractor and apparent alter ego of GRFCO; and (4) James Craig Jackson, the principal in GJC and an employee of GRFCO. The Division found that, in six instances, the contractors violated apprenticeship requirements, and in two instances, Frost and Jackson had made false certifications under penalty of perjury. The trial court denied the contractors’ petition for administrative mandate. On appeal, the contractors contended: (1) there was insufficient evidence that the apprenticeship violations were knowing; (2) there was insufficient evidence to support the false certification findings; (3) the contractors were debarred because they refused to join a union, in violation of the First Amendment; (5) the Division, hearing officer, and/or the investigator were biased; and (5) the hearing officer erred by denying the contractors' request to reopen, which was based on new evidence of bias. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "GRFCO, Inc. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Jacobs Project Management Co v. United States Department of the Interior
In 2014, National Park Service (NPS) entered a contract with Perini to perform work on Ellis Island and hired Jacobs to provide contract management services on that contract. Jacobs assigned Weber to the project. Weber observed what he believed to be discrepancies between Perini’s work and its billing practices and disclosed those discrepancies to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which concluded that there was no misconduct. In 2015, the NPS informed Jacobs that it would not extend its contract, purportedly because there was not enough work. Weber told OIG that he believed NPS’s decision was due to his reports and that he feared Jacobs would not retain him. Jacobs ultimately discharged Weber, who filed an OIG complaint in December 2015. In April 2016, Weber agreed to, an extension of OIG’s 180-day statutory deadline to complete its investigation. In February 2017, beyond the 360-day extended deadline, OIG completed and transmitted its report, with redacted copies to Weber and Jacobs. More than three years later, Jacobs asserted that it had never received the report.Jacobs subsequently declined to respond, asserting that the report was issued after the statutory deadline, 41 U.S.C. 4712, and that OIG lacked jurisdiction. The final determination and order were issued in December 2021, well beyond the 30-day deadline, and concluded that Jacobs had engaged in a prohibited reprisal against Weber. The Third Circuit denied an appeal, holding that the deadlines are not jurisdictional. View "Jacobs Project Management Co v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law
SANA KAPPOUTA V. VALIANT INTEGRATED SERVICES, ET AL
While at a bar at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, Plaintiff was shoved by an intoxicated co-worker. She was reluctant to report the incident, but she eventually acquiesced to requests of the State Department and her employer. Because of her report, Plaintiff’s employer attempted to transfer her to a different position. After initially refusing the transfer, she was fired. Plaintiff filed suit under the Defense Contractor Whistleblower Protection Act (DCWPA). The district court dismissed her complaint without prejudice, allowing leave to amend. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s action under DCWPA against Valiant Integrated Services, LLC, and The Electronic On-Ramp, Inc. The panel held that to survive a motion to dismiss under the DCWPA, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that: (1) she made a disclosure that she reasonably believed was evidence of a violation related to a Department of Defense contract; and (2) her employer discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against her because of that disclosure. The panel held that Plaintiff did not plausibly allege a reasonable belief that her complaint about the shoving incident encompassed one of the acts described in Section 4701(a)(1)(A)-(C). The panel held that, in the context of a defense contract, a violation of law is related to the contract if it is related to the purpose of the contract or affects the services provided by the defense contractor to the Department of Defense. The panel concluded that, under this standard, Plaintiff’s complaint failed to allege a sufficient nexus between the shove and the Department of Defense-Valiant contract. View "SANA KAPPOUTA V. VALIANT INTEGRATED SERVICES, ET AL" on Justia Law
Ascolese v. Shoemaker Construction Co
Ascolese, a compliance officer, brought a False Claims Act (FCA) retaliation claim against his former employer, MBP, in connection with a qui tam action involving a federally-funded public housing construction project for the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA). In 2009–2010, Congress amended the FCA, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A), to expand the scope of protected conduct shielded from retaliation and the type of notice an employer must have of the protected conduct. The new standard is whether Ascolese showed he engaged in protected conduct in furtherance of an FCA action or other efforts to stop or more violations of the FCA and that he was discriminated against because of his protected conduct. The court believed that the pre-amendment standard was required by the Third Circuit, and concluded that Ascolese failed to show MBP was on notice that he was attempting to stop MBP from violating the FCA and not merely doing his job.The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. The right question is whether Ascolese pled facts that plausibly showed MBP was on notice he tried to stop MBP’s alleged FCA violation. Ascolese sufficiently pled that he engaged in protected conduct when he went outside of his chain of command to report his concerns of fraudulent work to the PHA. View "Ascolese v. Shoemaker Construction Co" on Justia Law
Associated Gen. Contractors of Wash. v. State
This case concerned whether Washington Substitute Senate Bill (SSB) 5493, constituted an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. SSB 5493 amended RCW 39.12.015 to modify how the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) industrial statistician calculated prevailing wage rates for public works projects. Associated General Contractors of Washington, Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington Inc., Inland Pacific Chapter of Associate Builders and Contractors Inc., and Inland Northwest AGC Inc. (collectively AGC), filed suit against the State of Washington and various government officials in their official capacities (collectively State), for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that requiring the industrial statistician to use the wages from CBAs constituted an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The superior court granted the State’s cross motion for summary judgment, holding that SSB 5493 was constitutional, and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals reversed and held that SSB 5493 was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority, holding that the amendments have neither the standards nor adequate procedural safeguards as required by the two-part test set forth in Barry & Barry, Inc. v. Department of Motor Vehicles, 81 Wn.2d 155, 163-64, 500 P.2d 540 (1972). The Washington Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals: SSB 5493 was not an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority because it provided standards and procedural safeguards under the test in Barry & Barry. "The legislature made a policy decision to adopt the highest CBA wage rate and has directed the L&I industrial statistician to identify the highest CBA wage rate and adopt it as the prevailing wage. In addition there are procedural safeguards in related statutes and inherent in the collective bargaining process that protect against arbitrary administrative action or abuse of discretionary power." The case was remanded back to the Court of Appeals for consideration of the remaining issue not addressed because of its disposition in this case. View "Associated Gen. Contractors of Wash. v. State" on Justia Law