WHEN CAN VOLUNTEERS BE CONSIDERED EMPLOYEES? SIXTH CIRCUIT CLARIFIES

volunteer_employeeAfter the Sixth Circuit held that a Plaintiff need not make a threshold showing that they were compensated to make a prima facie showing that he is an employee for purposes of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), Bryson v. Middlefield Vol. Fire Dep’t, Inc., 656 F.3d 348, 353-54 (6th Cir. 2011), the question has remained: how broad are the conditions under which a volunteer be considered an employee, and thus have standing under Title VII? Last month, in Marie v. Am. Red Cross, No. 13-4052, slip op. (6th Cir. Nov. 14, 2014), the Court held that such conditions were very narrow indeed.

In Marie, two Plaintiff nuns had been long-term disaster relief volunteers with the First Capital District Chapter of the American Red Cross (“Red Cross”) and the Ross County (Ohio) Emergency Management Agency (“RCEMA”). Id., p. 2. They did not receive compensation or health insurance, but were eligible to receive workers compensation from both organizations and to participate in the Red Cross’s life insurance program. Id., pp. 3, 5. Despite receiving positive reviews, the nuns were denied promotions within the Red Cross which, while not entitling them to pay, would have given them increased responsibility. Id., pp. 3-4.    The nuns were also terminated as volunteers with RCEMA after expressing dissatisfaction with the Executive Director’s leadership. Id., p. 5. In their lawsuit, the nuns alleged religious discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Id., p. 6.

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Posted by Jim Smerbeck
Business Litigation
December 4, 2014

Sixth Circuit Weighs in on Intentional Interference with Economic Expectancy Under Michigan Law

saabThe tort of interference with economic expectancy addresses the interference with a business relationship or expectancy that has not amounted to a contract. Many states recognize some form of this tort. Though the elements of this tort vary from state-to-state, the requirements generally include: (1) the existence of a valid business relationship or expectancy; (2) knowledge of this relationship or expectancy; (3) intentional interference causing or inducing a termination of this relationship or expectancy; and (4) resulting damages.

The Sixth Circuit recently addressed this business tort in Saab Automobile AB v. General Motors Company. No. 13-1899, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 20514 (6th Cir. Oct. 24, 2014). Saab Automobile AB (“Saab”) and its parent company filed suit against General Motors Company (“GM”) alleging that GM made public statements that interfered with a transaction Saab had with a potential investor, thereby driving Saab into bankruptcy. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Michigan’s dismissal of the case, finding that Saab had failed to establish a claim under Michigan law.

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Posted by Marleen Herring
Business Litigation
November 24, 2014

The Digital Fourth Amendment and Your Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

cell towerAs my colleague, Scot Ganow, suggested earlier this year, it won’t be long before the Supreme Court again finds itself at the intersection of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and evolving technology. He was right. Slowly but surely, there is a split developing over the protection of cell site location information, both real-time and historical. This particular split – or split-in-waiting – has a little bit for everyone: privacy enthusiasts, who are waiting to see if the Supreme Court will continue the “digital is different” trend; Fourth Amendment scholars, who are anxious to dissect any application of the mosaic theory versus a growing privacy theory; and law enforcement officials, who are likely waiting to see how they can operate from day-to-day.

Cell site location information, or CSLI, is a record of calls made by an individual. More than that, it typically includes information on the cell tower that carried the call as well as the direction of the user from the tower. Why is this important? Because while not as precise as GPS location, CSLI makes it possible to extrapolate the location of a cellphone user at the time and date reflected in the call record. Given the prevalence of cellphones in today’s society, CSLI can be an indispensable tool for law enforcement.

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Posted by Jeff Knight
Business Litigation
November 17, 2014

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