Supreme Court Watch – Fall Update

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Despite the government shutdown, the Supreme Court of the United States is forging ahead with its schedule for the October 2013 term. The fall schedule of arguments carry a number of direct and potential impacts for employers.

Cases to watch:

10/15/13 – Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. Does the Michigan State Constitution violate the federal Equal Protection Clause where it prohibits racial & sexual discrimination or references in college admissions? This affirmative action issue, while brought in relation to public university admission criteria, will necessarily impact private persons and businesses in running their own affairs. Under modern Equal Protection cases, can color blind legislation be constitutional?

11/4/13 – Sandifer v. US Steel. Is the act of putting on protective gear stored and maintained at the place of business “changing clothes”? Under the FLSA, workers who are “changing clothes” may or may not be entitled to compensation for the time spent in that activity. The question for every day employers will trickle down to how the Court is interpreting under-defined terms in a statute, in a manner so as to expand worker rights or to protect businesses.

11/6/13 – Town of Greece v. Galloway. This case addresses the constitutionality of a legislative prayer service. This case is bringing in all the big guns from all sides to debate the proper test for deciding such questions under the Establishment Clause. However it is decided, expect the decision and the language used to carry over into employment law issues such as the private employer’s ability to act according to the dictates of his or her religious conscience where it conflicts with civil law. Think of those inevitable contests coming down the road on refusal to abide by the Affordable Health Care Act or to provide certain services (such as wedding related services) to homosexual couples.

11/12/13 – Lawson v. FMR LLC. Are employees of privately held contractors or subcontractors of a public company protected by federal whistle-blower protection laws?

To be Scheduled: NLRB v. Canning. Did the President validly exercise his recess appointment powers as to appointing members to the National Labor Relations Board? This is one of those domino type issues where the original question (were the appointments constitutional) impact so many other issues (if the appointments were not valid, are all of the decisions made by the NLRB there under invalid too?).

Helsell Fettermen will continue it Supreme Court watch throughout the term to alert clients to the possible impacts to their interests.

About the Authors

Karen Kalzer

Ms. Kalzer practices employment and education law with an emphasis on defending complex litigation for communities of faith, non-profits, schools and private employers.

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