During their last session, U.S. Supreme Court justices delivered several blows to those who sought to file employment and wage and hour lawsuits in New York and throughout the country.
In effect, there were six major decisions that could be categorized as a “loss” for workers’ rights, ultimately cooling class action filings, clearing the way for more business-friendly arbitration action and heightening the hurdles necessary to file such action in the first place.
In the newest 2013-2014 session, which began this month, the high court is slated to hear at least seven cases that could have some impact on wage and employment law. Some of that impact could be significant.
The first of those cases, NLRB v. Noel Canning, focuses on whether President Barack Obama’s recess appointment of several vacancies to the National Labor Relations Board were constitutional. At first glance, this might seem to be a largely procedural issue. However, if the board deems that the president overstepped his bounds, then years’ worth of employment-related decisions made by the board in the interim could be invalidated.
Another case at issue is Sandifer v. U.S. Steel Corp., is a question of wage and hour law. Under certain circumstances – namely when workers are required by law to wear protective gear during the course of their jobs – employers can be compelled to pay them for the time they spend changing in and out of that protective gear. However, there are a fair number of labor unions that have used this as a point of negotiation, allowing employers off the hook for this time. At issue in the Sandifer case is whether an agreement arbitrated by the union can trump state and federal wage and hour laws in these situations.
And speaking of unions, the case of Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall will examine the ways in which unions co-exist with companies. Many unions enter agreements with employers in which the union agrees to give up its right to picket, boycott or pressure the business if the employer remains neutral with regard to union organization. However, some have suggested this amounts to bribery and violates the Labor Management Relations Act. The U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say.
There is also once again a question that has been raised with regard to arbitration in employment disputes. In BG Group v. Republic of Argentina, the issue to be decided is whether the arbitrator or the court should be the entity that determines whether arbitration conditions have been satisfied.
Claims of age discrimination and retaliation will also come be raised. In Madigan v. Levin, the issue at hand is whether government employees should be allowed to bypass certain procedures set forth in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or whether they should be able to directly file such claims in court. And in Lawson v. FMR LLC, the court will examine whether privately-held contractors and subcontractors of public companies are entitled to the same protections against retaliation as other workers under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides employment litigation representation in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or send us an e-mail.
More US Supreme Court decisions expected to affect employers, Oct. 14, 2013, By Rich Meneghello, Idaho Business Journal
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