As early as November 30, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear three high profile employment cases that question whether Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination protects gay and transgender employees. These cases have significant implications on the proper scope of Title VII and the rights of the LGBT community in the workplace.
Under Title VII, an employer has engaged in “‘impermissible consideration of … sex … in employment practices’ when ‘sex … was a motivating factor for any employment practice,’ irrespective of whether the employer was also motivated by ‘other factors’.”
The Senate is gearing up to consider President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to replace Justice Kennedy. While employment law is not likely to be the center of his confirmation hearings, many employers will be watching to see how Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment may impact employment cases that come before the Supreme Court. A review of Judge Kavanaugh’s employment law decisions during his time on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit suggests that although he sometimes sides with employees, he would be an employer-friendly addition to the Supreme Court.
Just over two years ago, after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia but before the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 tie over whether unions could require non-members to pay “fair share fees.” The case challenged the Supreme Court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education precedent that allowed public sector unions to force non-union members to pay fees covering the cost of collective bargaining so long as the workers were not made to pay for a union’s political or ideological activities.
Recently, in Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court returned to the issue. Ultimately, the Court held that allowing public sector unions to require non-union workers to pay fair share fees violates workers’ First Amendment rights, thereby overturning the Abood precedent.
In a highly anticipated ruling, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of a cake shop owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs. The case highlights the potentially conflicting intersection of religious freedoms and anti-discrimination laws; i.e. the right to hold sincere religious beliefs and the right to be treated equally and without discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. READ MORE
In the Supreme Court’s first decision interpreting Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower retaliation provisions, the Court unanimously held that internal whistleblowing is not protected under Dodd-Frank. The highly anticipated ruling resolves a circuit split between the Second and Ninth Circuits, which held that such reporting was protected, and the Fifth Circuit, which held that it was not. The Court sided with the Fifth Circuit’s textual reading and held that no Chevron deference to the SEC’s interpretation of the statute was warranted because the statutory definition of “whistleblower” was clear. READ MORE
In July, we reported that the Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments to settle the circuit split of whether mandatory class action waivers violate section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).
Last month, both sides argued before the Court: the pro-employer representatives argued that arbitration agreements containing class waivers must be enforced under the FAA (representing the Second, Fifth and Eighth Circuits) while the pro-employee representatives argued that class waiver provisions contained in arbitration agreements are illegal under the NLRA and thus, not subject to the FAA (representing the Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Circuits). READ MORE
On Friday, June 16, 2017, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an amicus brief reflecting a change of heart when it comes to the enforceability of class waivers in arbitration agreements. In an unprecedented move, President Trump’s acting solicitor general, Jeffrey B. Wall, said his office had “reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion” as the Obama administration in a set of consolidated cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, NLRB v. Murphy Oil USA Inc. (Docket Nos. 16-285, 16-300, and 16-307).
After the Supreme Court sat with an empty seat for more than one year, and following a hard-fought nominations process which saw the failed nomination of Judge Merrick Garland and Republican lawmakers resorting to the “nuclear option,” the Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit to be the next Supreme Court Justice. His first day on the job was Monday, April 17th. But for those who are not familiar with Judge Gorsuch, the question remains: what kind of Justice will he be? READ MORE
In August of 2016, we reported that the Ninth Circuit created a deeper circuit-split on whether class action waivers in arbitration agreements violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) with its decision in Morris v. Ernst & Young LLP.
As expected, the Supreme Court granted review today of three of the conflicting Court of Appeals decisions. It granted review of the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Murphy Oil USA, Inc. v. NLRB, 808 F.3d 1013 (5th Cir. 2015). The Fifth Circuit rejected the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) position that class action waivers unlawfully interfere with employees’ NLRA rights to engage in concerted activity, agreeing with the Second and Eighth Circuits. The Ninth and Seventh Circuits, on the other hand, adopted the NLRB’s position that class action waivers violate the NLRA.
The Supreme Court also granted review in Morris v. Ernst & Young, 834 F.3d 975 (9th Cir. 2016) and Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 823 F.3d 1147 (7th Cir. 2016). The Seventh Circuit held that an arbitration agreement precluding collective arbitration or collective action violates section 7 of the NLRA and is unenforceable under the FAA. The Ninth Circuit agreed and concluded that compulsory class action waivers violate sections 7 and 8 of the NLRA by limiting workers’ rights to act collectively, noting in footnote 4 that agreements containing an “opt-out” clause for pursuing class claims do not violate the NLRA.
All three cases have been consolidated and will be argued together.
On March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., holding that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires courts to consider the extent to which an employer’s policy treats pregnant workers less favorably than it treats non-pregnant workers similar in their ability or inability to perform their job duties.