January 9, 2013 4th Circuit published opinions

Young v United Parcel Service, Inc.

Young was placed on a 20 pound lifting restriction by her prenatal caregiver. UPS did not offer light duty for pregnant workers on lifting restriction and refused to allow Young to work on light duty. She sued for sex and disability discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment to UPS. The panel affirmed. It held that Young was not disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act as her lifting restriction was temporary. Nor was she regarded as disabled as UPS considered her lifting restriction a temporary condition incident to pregnancy. Turning to the sex discrimination claim, the panel held that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act did not create a freestanding cause of action to require employers to treat pregnant women better than other employees. Instead, the panel joined the majority of circuits in holding it merely forbids the use of pregnancy itself to discriminate against women employees. Here, the refusal to allow light duty was based on pregnancy neutral polices and none of the categories of workers who were permitted light duty were similarly placed to Young or any pregnant employee. Nor was there evidence that any decision maker had animus towards Young as woman or as a pregnant woman.

Lang v Federal Express Corporation

Lang injured her knee while delivering packages. FedEx started an investigation on her time records. After she returned to work, he was placed on investigative leave and later terminated. She sued alleging FedEx violated the Family and medical leave Act by terminating her in retaliation for taking leave by failing to provide a similar position upon her return. The district court granted summary judgment to FedEx. The panel affirmed. It held that there was no direct evidence of retaliation as the comments Lang pointed to either demonstrate no animus, were jokes or involved work assignments which changed frequently. Turning to the burden shifting analysis, the panel praised the use of comparator evidence as very helpful in determining if a person has been treated differently and does so in a more objective manner. The panel held that Lang made a prima facia case of discrimination, but, FedEx’s reason for firing her, false entries in her time records, was nondiscriminatory. It had terminated another employee not on leave for similar falsehoods shortly before Lang was terminated. The panel held that Lang’s explanations for the discrepancies missed the point as there was no evidence FedEx did not believe Lang falsified time records. As to the failure to provide an equivalent position, the panel held that FedEx would have suspended and terminated Lang if she had not taken leave. Thus, there was no violation of the statute.

American Management Services LLC v Department of the Army

American and another entity won contracts to run Army housing at two bases. The other entity was concerned American was committing fraud in the operation of the housing and took a binder of materials compiled by its attorneys to the Army. The Army gave permission to remove American as manager. The other entity sued American in Georgia sate court. After failing to get the binder and other documents through discovery, American filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the binder and other documents. The Army provided some of the documents and refused to provide the rest. American therefore sued in federal court to obtain the documents. The district court granted summary judgment to Army. The panel affirmed. It held the binder contained the kinds of information about the other entity’s business dealings and allegations of fraud that made the Army’s job of policing fraud in its contracts easier. Therefore Exemption 4 applied as the documents were “confidential” for purposes of that exemption. Documents exchanged between the Army and the other entity were held properly withheld under Exemption 5 as being between parties with a common interest based on the unwritten agreement for the entity to terminate American and sue it. The Army also had the same interest in minimizing losses to fraud in order to keep the housing in good repair and order. Nor was the entity’s self interest cause to conclude otherwise as once the Army concluded termination was in the public interest this displaced any self interest as the motivating factor behind the communications.

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