U.S. Supreme Court’s Upcoming Labor & Employment Cases for October 2015 Term
The U.S. Supreme Court’s October 2015 Term began hearing arguments on October 5, 2015. As with most of the Court’s terms, there are at least four or five labor and employment cases that may have significant impact for employers. Below, are a couple of these cases:
- Campbell-Ewald Company v. Gomez: Gomez is not an employment case, but it is relevant to wage and hour class and collective actions. In such cases, employers often use a defensive strategy of offering the named, representative plaintiffs an “offer of judgment” that provides complete relief for their individual claims. In some jurisdictions, if the named, representative plaintiffs do not accept the offer, their claims are rendered moot and the case will be dismissed because the plaintiffs no longer have a personal interest in representing other class members. Employers will gain a significant advantage if the Court adopts this view.
- Heffernan v. City of Paterson: In this case, a police officer (the plaintiff) was terminated from employment after he was observed picking up a political lawn sign for his sick mother that supported a political candidate who sought to unseat the current mayor. The issue in Heffernan is whether, under the First Amendment, a public employer may fire an employee based on the employer’s perception of the employee’s political affiliation. Specifically, the Court is expected to resolve whether the First Amendment’s protections extend only to actual speech or whether they also prohibit a public employer from penalizing an employee for perceived speech.
- Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association: The issue in Friedrichs is whether public, non-union member employees may be compelled to pay union dues as a condition of their employment. This case potentially has a significant impact on public sector unions as the Court is expected to overturn its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.
- Green v. Brennan: In Green, the Court will determine when the statute of limitations begins to run on a constructive discharge claim where the plaintiff alleges that he or she was forced to resign due to harassment or other forms of discrimination. In other words, does the statute of limitations begin to run when the employee resigns or when the last alleged bad act of the employer occurred?
- Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo: In an earlier case, Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, the Court limited the ability of named, representative plaintiffs to pursue relief on behalf of a class or as part of a collective action where the determination of individual damages, particularly in the wage and hour context, was not susceptible to resolution on a classwide basis. In Bouaphakeo, the Court will have an opportunity to refine its analysis with respect to two related issues: 1) to what extent may statistical techniques that presume all class members are identical to the average observed in a sample may be used to prove liability and damages; and 2) whether the named, representative plaintiffs may maintain a class or a collective action when the class includes members who were not injured and thus, not entitled to damages.
- MHN Government Services Inc. v. Zabrowski: This case is significant for those employers who prefer arbitration over the courts as a means for resolving employment disputes. Under California law, a contract clause requiring arbitration must be stricken if any of its terms are invalid. Zabrowski case will determine whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) may preempt this provision of California law and require enforcement of an arbitration clause even where several of the clause’s provisions may be unenforceable.
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