Employment Lawsuit Issues To Take Center Stage in New U.S. Supreme Court Term

As the U.S. Supreme Court begins another session this month following its summer recess, there are a number of pending cases that could have a significant impact on labor and employment law. uscapitol

While our Costa Mesa wage and hour lawyers want to be hopeful about the outcome of these cases, the reality is that the court did not hand out many decisions that favored workers during the last term.

The 2012-2013 term resulted six-out-of-six “wins” for employers. These decisions aided employers in a number of ways. In general, those included making it easier to win cases against them, discouraging such cases from being filed in the first place, making it tougher to obtain class action status and clearing the way for more cases to be decided via arbitration, which is generally considered more favorable to the business than the worker.

One of those decisions was Vance v. Ball State University. That decision served to shield employers from being held liable when employees harass co-workers in violation of company policy.

Then there was University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar. In that case, the justices ultimately made it tougher for plaintiffs to successfully win claims of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The majority opinion determined that plaintiffs have to prove that the adverse employment action would not have been taken “but for” the plaintiff engaging in the protected activity. In other words, it’s not enough that a plaintiff was racially discriminated against. He or she¬† must prove that it was the motivating factor in the negative action, as opposed to just one motivating factor.

Then there were a pair of decisions that resulted in the further tightening of criteria necessary for plaintiffs to attain class action status. Those cases, Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk and Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, resulted in plaintiffs being handed the burden of proof regarding common injury and damages in the early stages of litigation. That ultimately is going to reduce the chances that companies are going to have to engage in these kinds of lawsuits in the first place (which often end in settlement agreements, particularly if there are a large number of plaintiffs).

And then in two other key labor law decisions (Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter and American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant) the court determined that lower courts can’t toss arbitration agreements just because they don’t allow class-wide negotiations.

So all-in-all, not a great year for the general working population.

While its tough to say in advance what the significance of this year’s cases will be, we do know that there are at least seven cases with the potential to have at least some effect on employers and employees.

One of those cases, NLRB v. Noel Channing, involves whether the appointment of three members of the National Labor Relations Board by the president was allowed under the constitution. If not, several years’ worth of decisions could be tossed.

In another case, Sandifer v. U.S. Steel Corp., the court will take a look at whether employers are going to be required to pay wages to workers who need to change in and out of work clothes and protective gear that they are required to wear. Many union contracts stipulate that companies don’t need to pay workers for this time, but those stipulations may be overruled by wage and hour laws.

Our California labor law attorneys will be closely following each of these cases, and are available to answer any questions you may have regarding your own grounds for filing an employment-related lawsuit.

Costa Mesa employment lawsuits can be filed with the help of the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

More U.S. Supreme Court decisions expected to affect employers, Oct. 14, 2013, By Rich Meneghello, Idaho Business Review

More Blog Entries:

California Wage and Hour Lawsuits May be Prompted by New Minimum Wage Law, Oct. 12, 2013, Costa Mesa Employment Lawyer Blog