Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Service Employees International Union, Local 509 v. Department of Mental Health
Service Employees International Union, Local 509 (Union) brought a declaratory judgment action against the Department of Mental Health (DMH) maintaining that certain contracts DMH made with private vendors were “privatization contracts” subject to the requirements of the Pacheco Law. The Union sought a declaration invalidating the contracts because DMH did not comply with the statutory prerequisites of the Pacheco Law. The case was dismissed. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case. On remand, DMH again successfully moved to dismiss the Union’s declaratory judgment action on the basis that it was moot because the initial contracts had expired and the remaining extant renewal contracts were immune from challenge by virtue of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 7, 53. The Union appealed, asserting that because the non-compliant initial contracts were invalid under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 7, 54, so too were any renewal contracts made pursuant to them. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of dismissal, holding that the protection afforded renewal contracts by section 53 is not extended to those renewal contracts made pursuant to timely challenged and subsequently invalidated privatization contracts under section 54. View "Service Employees International Union, Local 509 v. Department of Mental Health" on Justia Law
United Steel Paper and Forestry Rubber Manufacturing Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union AFL- CIO- CLC v. Government of the Virgin Islands
In 2011, in response to a severe budget crisis, the Government of the Virgin Islands enacted the Virgin Islands Economic Stability Act (VIESA), which reduced most government employees’ salaries by 8%. Many government employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements that set forth detailed salary and benefit schedules. Their unions sued, alleging that the VIESA salary reductions constituted an impermissible impairment of the collective bargaining agreements, in violation of the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution. The district court, after a bench trial, held that VIESA did not violate the Contract Clause. The Third Circuit reversed, first holding that the issue is not moot, although VIESA has expired. The court’s determination will have a preclusive effect in pending arbitration between the unions and the government, concerning wages not paid in the interim. VIESA’s substantial impairment of the collective bargaining agreements was not reasonable in light of the fact that the government knew of its precarious financial condition when it agreed to the contracts. View "United Steel Paper and Forestry Rubber Manufacturing Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union AFL- CIO- CLC v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law
Uhlig v. Fluor Corp.
Uhlig brought False Claims Act and retaliation claims against his former employer, Flour, which had contracted with the U.S. Army to provide electrical engineering work in Afghanistan. Uhlig says Fluor knowingly breached the terms of its Army contract by using unlicensed electricians as journeymen and billing the government for the services. Uhlig also contends Fluor wrongfully terminated Uhlig as a whistleblower in violation of 31 U.S.C. 3730(h). The district court granted summary judgment for Fluor. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A plain reading of the contract documents is that Fluor needed to ensure that its electricians were qualified for the duties to which they were assigned by virtue of license, certification, training, or education. Nothing in the contract suggests that Fluor was required to elect one method of verifying its electricians’ qualification and that Fluor would then be limited to that method. Uhlig’s retaliation claim failed because he did not show that, at the time of the incidents at issue, a reasonable employee in Uhlig’s position would have believed Fluor was defrauding the government. View "Uhlig v. Fluor Corp." on Justia Law
Samaan v. Gen. Dynamics Land Sys., Inc.
Samaan, a General Dynamics engineer since 1977, believed that the company was using the wrong shock-and-vibration testing methods on Stryker armored vehicles developed for use by the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, which led, in turn, to submission of purportedly erroneous reports detailing the shock-and-vibration specifications for the vehicles. Samaan alleged that from 2004-2010 he repeatedly raised his concerns and eventually “filed a formal claim of data misrepresentation, fraud, and retaliation” with the Human Resources Department in 2010. General Dynamics allegedly gave Samaan his first poor performance evaluation in 2011, with a statement that his evaluation “would improve if he would ‘forget’ about the testing misrepresentation and fraud.” Samaan eventually took his concerns to the Army. He was suspended without pay, then filed suit, alleging retaliation, and resigned. An arbitrator, required by Samaan’s employment agreement, issued an award in favor of the Company, which the district court declined to vacate. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the procedures employed during arbitration and stating that the Federal Arbitration Act does not allow for vacatur based on the fulfillment of moral and ethical obligations. View "Samaan v. Gen. Dynamics Land Sys., Inc." on Justia Law
Jones v. Dept. of Health & Human Servs.
In 2015, Jones, a veteran, filed 16 appeals with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), alleging that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301–4333, when it did not select him for various job vacancies. An administrative judge consolidated the appeals and ultimately denied relief in an Initial Decision. That Decision became the Final Decision of the MSPB when Jones did not timely file a petition for review. The Federal Circuit affirmed, first holding that it had jurisdiction, rejecting an argument that there was no . final MSPB decision from which Jones could appeal. The AJ properly found that neither direct nor circumstantial evidence supported Jones’s USERRA claim and failed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that his military service was a motivating factor in HHS’s decision not to hire him for the subject job vacancies. View "Jones v. Dept. of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law
Sheet Metal Workers Int’l Assoc. v. Horning Invs., LLC
In 2011, Horning won the subcontract for roofing work at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The Davis‐Bacon Act, 40 U.S.C. 3141–43, requires contractors who perform construction for the federal government to pay their workers the “prevailing wage.” Department of Labor regulations at that time set the base rate for a Dayton Sheet Metal Worker at $26.41 per hour; the fringe benefit rate was another $16.82 an hour. The workers were properly classified and received the appropriate base rate. All employees who work at Horning for more than 90 days are eligible for insurance; some receive vacation days. After a year, they become eligible for matching contributions to a 401(k) account. Accountants advised Horning about the amount to deposit into its benefits trust to comply with ERISA and Davis‐Bacon. Horning deducted a flat hourly fee from the paycheck of each Medical Center worker, regardless of whether the employee was eligible for any benefits. The amount did not correspond to the actual monetary value of the benefits each individual employee received. The Union filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733, rather than filing under Davis-Bacon. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of Horning. Under the False Claims Act, the Union had to show that Horning knowingly made false statements (or misleading omissions) that were material to the government’s payment decision. The Union did not proffer enough evidence to permit a reasonable jury to conclude that Horning acted with such knowledge. View "Sheet Metal Workers Int'l Assoc. v. Horning Invs., LLC" on Justia Law
William Charles Constr. Co., LLC v. Teamsters Local Union 627
William Charles Construction (WCC) entered into a labor agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for the “Biggsville” construction project to expand a section of Rt. 34 to four lanes. A jurisdictional dispute between two unions, each claiming the right for their member drivers to operate large trucks involved in the excavation work, was resolved by an arbitrator. Later, a Joint Grievance Committee (JGC) determined, under a subordinated collective bargaining agreement, that WCC owed the Teamsters back pay and fringe benefit contributions ($1.4 million) for having assigned the operation of heavy trucks to the International Union of Operating Engineers rather than the Teamsters. A second JGC award determined that WCC was liable for two days’ back pay for having assigned work to two Teamsters in violation of other Teamsters’ seniority rights. WCC filed a declaratory action under the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185. The court granted the Teamsters summary judgment, finding that WCC filed its complaint outside the statute of limitations. The Seventh Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment to the Teamsters and dismissed the Teamsters’ counterclaim for enforcement of one of the JGC awards. WCC's challenge to the awards is not barred by the statute of limitations because WCC did not receive notice of their final entry. The greater of the two JGC awards is void because WCC did not agree to arbitration by the JGC. View "William Charles Constr. Co., LLC v. Teamsters Local Union 627" on Justia Law
Lal v. Merit Sys. Protection Bd.
Lal was appointed as a distinguished consultant at the Centers for Disease Control, a component of the Department of Health and Human Services, in the excepted service under 42 U.S.C. 209(f), which provides that consultants “may be appointed without regard to the civil-service laws.” The agency understood this to mean that Lal was not subject to the statutory due process requirements of the civil-service laws under title 5 of the United States Code, and terminated her employment without providing notice of the termination or a right to respond, as would ordinarily be required by the civil-service laws. The Merit Systems Protection Board concluded that section 209(f) deprived it of jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit reversed. While section 209(f) placed Lal into the excepted service, it did not exempt her from the Civil Service Due Process Amendments of 1990, which provide appeal rights to certain excepted service employees, 5 U.S.C. 7511(a)(1)(C). View "Lal v. Merit Sys. Protection Bd." on Justia Law
Nguyen v. Merit Sys. Protection Bd.
Nguyen, a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Supervisory Examiner, received a Notice of Proposed Reduction in Grade to Patent Examiner, alleging that she had violated rules prohibiting nepotism in attempting to prevent her son, a probationary examiner, from being fired. Nguyen received her yearly performance review, which reflected a reduced rating. Nguyen discussed with her supervisor, Banks, the possibility of resigning. Believing that Nguyen had resigned, Banks ordered that technicians collect Nguyen’s government-supplied laptop. Nguyen objected and sent an email to Banks, stating that she felt “forced . . . to resign.” Banks and another supervisor stopped by Nguyen’s office and assured her that “[a]s we stated multiple times today, the decision of whether to resign or stay is completely up to you.” Banks ordered that Nguyen’s access to computer supervisory functions be revoked, pending her grade reduction. Nguyen went to human resources to pick up retirement papers and sent Wallace emails offering to drop all appeal rights in exchange for a suspension instead of the grade reduction. Wallace was out of the office until the following Monday, one day after the reduction would be effective. Nguyen filed retirement papers that Friday, effective the next day, one day before her reduction would have gone into effect.. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal by the Merit Systems Protection Board. Nguyen failed to articulate a nonfrivolous argument that her retirement was involuntary. View "Nguyen v. Merit Sys. Protection Bd." on Justia Law
Miller v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp.
Miller served on active duty, 2003-2007, and has a VA disability rating of 60 percent. Since 2008, Miller has been employed as an FDIC Economic Analyst. He was hired at the GS-9 level and has risen to the GS-12 level. In 2012 the FDIC posted vacancy announcements for a CG-13 Financial Economist position: one open to all citizens and another for status candidates. Miller applied under both procedures and was one of three finalists. Three FDIC employees participated in the interviews, rating each candidate’s answers to questions on bank failure prediction models as Outstanding, Good, or Inadequate. All of the candidates received some "inadequate" ratings. No candidate was selected; the vacancy was cancelled. Miller filed a Department of Labor complaint, stating that the cancellation was in bad faith to avoid hiring a veteran or having to request a “pass over” from the Office of Personnel Management. The Merit Systems Protection Board denied his petition under the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act, finding that the allegation of non-selection in violation of veterans’ rights was sufficient to confer jurisdiction, but that Miller had not established a violation because the FDIC “conducted a thorough, structured interview of each of the candidates” and “none of the interviewees possessed the requisite skills and knowledge for the position.” The Federal Circuit affirmed; substantial evidence indicated that cancellation was predicated on a lack of appropriately qualified candidates. View "Miller v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp." on Justia Law