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AuthorSara M. Chico
Positionmployment Law Professor at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law's Legal Assistance Clinic
Pages2011-2012 Term Analysis of First Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, and U.S. Supreme Court Labor and Employment Law Jurisprudence
2011-2012 TERM ANALYSIS OF FIRST CIRCUIT COURT OF
APPEALS, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO
RICO, AND U.S. SUPREME COURT LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT
LAW JURISPRUDENCE
SARA M. CHICO, ESQ.*
I. Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 2
II. Disability .............................................................................................................................. 2
A. The Americans with Disabilities Act “Association Provision” and the
Family and Medical Leave Act ......................................................................................... 2
B. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies ............................................................ 4
C. Individual Liability in ADA Claims ..................................................................... 10
D. Failure to Accommodate ....................................................................................... 11
E. “Major Life Activity”................................................................................................. 12
III. Labor Law .................................................................................................................... 13
IV. Workers’ Compensation ........................................................................................ 16
V. Discrimination and Retaliation ................................................................................ 18
A. Protected Conduct .................................................................................................... 18
B. Adverse Employment Action and Causal Connection ................................ 18
C. Legitimate or Pre-textual Employer Reasons for the Adverse Action? 22
VI. Constructive Termination ..................................................................................... 24
VII. Successor Employer Doctrine Under Law # 80 (Puerto Rico’s
Termination Law) .................................................................................................................. 25
VIII. Sexual Harassment ................................................................................................... 27
IX. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ........................................................................ 28
* Employment Law Professor at the University of Puerto Rico School of Laws Legal
Assistance Clinic. Professor Chico possesses the following degrees from the Unive rsity of
Puerto Rico: Juris Doctor, a Masters in Human Resource A dministration and Social
Legislation (highest GPA), and a Bachelor’s Degree in Labor Relations (magna cum laude).
The author would like to give a special thanks to University of Puerto Rico Labor and
Employment Law Clinic students José Alvarez, Linette Balaguer, Cristina Dávila, Rafael
González, Yic ella González, Jennice Hernández, Beatriz Kury, Verónica Meléndez, Jean-
Paulette Reyes, Oscar Rivera, Ricardo Rodríguez, Sharleen Santos, Edgardo Vázquez and
Carlos Virella for collaborating in summarizing cases.
2
U.P.R. Business Law Journal
Vol. 4
X. Whistleblowing .......................................................................................................... 30
XI. Puerto Rico’s Constitutional Property Interests .......................................... 31
XII. Conclusion ................................................................................................................... 33
I. INTRODUCTION
During the 2011-2012 term, the First Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S.
District Court for the District of Puerto Rico (“the USDC-PR”), and the U.S.
Supreme Court decided multiple labor and employment cases. From those, a
selection of over 30 cases was made in order to summarize the most
important holdings made by those courts concerning Labor and Employment
Law. The cases are organized according to their respective subject matters.
II. DISABILITY
A. The Americans with Disabilities Act “Association Provision” and the Family
and Medical Leave Act
In Mena Valdéz v. E.M. T-Shirt Distributors, Inc.,
1
the plaintiff claimed
that he was discriminated against and forced to resign from his job based of
the stress he suffered and leaves of absences he had to take because of his
daughter’s medical condition. As a result, he filed claims pursuant to sections
12122(a) and 12112(b)(4) (“the association provision”) of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”),
2
and also the Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”).
3
The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment and the
Court granted it with respect to the ADA claims but denied it with respect to
the FMLA claim.
To establish an unlawful discrimination claim under section 12112(a)
of the ADA, a plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:
(1) he was disabled within the meaning of the Act; (2) with or without
reasonable accommodation he was qualified to perform the essential
functions of the job; and (3) the employer discharged him because of his
disability. The Court held that the plaintiff failed to prove the first element. In
reaching that conclusion, the Court applied the following sub-analysis which
is used by the First Circuit.
4
In order to demonstrate a disability: (1) the
employee must prove that he suffers from a physical or mental impairment;
(2) the Court must evaluate the life activities affected by the impairment to
determine whether they constitute “major” life activities; and (3) the Court
1
Mena Valdéz v. E.M. T-Shirt Distributors, Inc., 869 F. Supp. 2d 252 (D.P.R. 201 2).
2
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a)-12112(b)(4) (1990).
3
Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654 (1993).
4
See e.g., Carroll v. Xerox Corp., 294 F.3d 231, 238 (1st Cir. 2002).
No. 1
2011-2012 Term Analysis- First Circuit, USDC-
PR, and U.S. Supreme Court Labor Law
Jurisprudence
3
must ask whether the impairment substantially limits the major life activity.
In this case, the Court held that the employee failed to satisfy the first prong
as he failed to provide evidence of any “medical care” he received in light of
his daughter's condition or a psychiatric evaluation diagnosing his alleged
mental impairment. Thus, the Court granted summary judgment against the
plaintiff with respect to the section 12112(a) claim.
Concerning section the “association provision” of ADA, which protects
employees from discrimination for knowing or having a relationship with a
disabled person, the Court held that the it does not require an employer to
make any reasonable accommodation to an employee caring for a disabled
relative. Rather, section 12112(b)(4) only guarantees that an employee with
a disabled relative be treated no differently than any other employee; it does
not provide extra benefits or allowances to an employee simply because of
his association with a disabled person.
5
Thus, the Court also granted
summary judgment against the plaintiff on his ADA association provision
claim.
However, the Court refused to grant summary judgment on the FMLA
claim. The FMLA contains two distinct types of provisions: those establishing
substantive rights for employees and those providing protection for those
rights.
6
The first, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(C), awards eligible
employees a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12month period,
which may be taken intermittently in order to care for a child with a serious
health condition.’”
7
The second type of provision prohibits employers from
interfering with the substantive rights conferred by the FMLA.
8
Section
2619(a) sets forth a notice provision requiring an employer to prominently
display notices containing excerpts or summaries of pertinent FMLA
employee information. Moreover, under 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a), an employer
may not restrain or deny an employee from exercising his right to take an
FMLA leave. If such a situation arises, an employee may bring a civil action
seeking compensatory damages, including wages, salary, and benefits. In this
case, the employer failed to provide notice to its employees about their FMLA
rights to 12 unpaid weeks leave to take care of a disabled child.
9
Additionally,
there were genuine issues of material fact as to that regard.
5
Torres-Alman v. Verizon Wireless Puerto Rico, Inc., 522 F. Supp. 2d 367, 382 (D.P .R. 2007);
6
Mena-Valdez, 869 F. Supp. 2d at 262 (citing Colburn v. Parker Hannifin Corp., 42 9 F.3d 325,
330 (1st Cir. 2005)).
7
Id. at 252 (citing 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(C)).
8
Id. (citing 29 U.S.C. § 2615).
9
Id. at 263.

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