On July 8, 2020, the Supreme Court gave religious employers wide leeway to hire and fire employees whose duties include religious instruction without having to worry about employment discrimination suits. In a 7-to-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru that the “ministerial exception” – a legal doctrine that shields religious employers from anti-discrimination lawsuits – foreclosed the adjudication of two discrimination lawsuits brought by Catholic school teachers.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Backs Broad Interpretation of the “Ministerial Exception,” Shielding Religious Employers From Employment Discrimination Claims

Baltimore County has petitioned the Supreme Court to decide whether backpay for violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) is mandatory.

Background

In 1999, two Baltimore County Correctional Officers initiated charges at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) claiming that they were being discriminated against based on their ages because they had to contribute more to the County’s pension plan than younger employees. After years of litigation and various appeals in the U.S. District Court of Maryland and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in April 2016, Baltimore County and the EEOC entered into a Joint Consent Order to equalize pension member contribution rates.
Continue Reading Mandatory Backpay in ADEA Claims: What Will SCOTUS Decide?

In a 2010 decision, Stolt-Nielsen S. A. v. Animalfeeds International Corp., the United States Supreme Court held that parties may not be compelled to submit to class arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) unless there is a contractual basis for concluding that they agreed to do so. The Court held that such an agreement could not be presumed from the fact that the arbitration agreement is “silent” on the issue of class arbitration or the mere fact that the parties agreed to arbitrate.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Individualized Arbitration Where Agreement Is Ambiguous on Issue of Class Arbitration

On April 22, 2019, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in a trio of cases challenging the scope of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s (“Title VII”) prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex.  The definition of “sex” in Title VII, and particularly whether the term incorporates sexual orientation and/or gender identity, is currently the subject of uncertainty and a hotly debated judicial and administrative divide.  Specifically, while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and United States Court of Appeals for the Second and Seventh Circuits have each determined that the term “sex” encompasses sexual orientation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has held that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  While the court has notably declined to hear cases aimed at resolving the meaning of “sex” in Title VII in recent years, its grant of certiorari signals that the Court is now prepared to address the issue.
Continue Reading SCOTUS To Rule On Whether Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Discrimination

On January 15, 2019, the Supreme Court issued its decision in New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, where it decided independent contractor truck drivers cannot be forced into arbitration.  The Court’s decision is based on Federal Arbitration Act § 1, which excepts from coverage disputes involving “contracts of employment” with “workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” 
Continue Reading SCOTUS Holds Independent Contractor Truck Drivers Exempt from Arbitration Under FAA

On January 8, 2019, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc. strengthening the enforceability of arbitration “delegation clauses.” These clauses have been previously upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and allow parties to agree that an arbitrator, rather than a court, will decide the threshold issue of whether a dispute must be arbitrated, as well as the merits of the dispute. The Supreme Court in Henry Schein rejected a doctrine adopted by several federal Circuit Courts of Appeals and the California Court of Appeal, which permitted courts to decline to enforce delegation clauses if the underlying assertion of arbitrability was “wholly groundless.” Under Henry Schein, courts must refer questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator when the parties have agreed to a clear and unmistakable delegation, even if the court believes the claim of arbitrability is frivolous.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Rejects ‘Wholly Groundless’ Exception to Delegation Clauses in Arbitration Agreements

On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled that mandated payment of so-called “agency fees” by non-union members in the public sector violated First Amendment principles protecting freedom of speech and association. In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, No. 16-1466, 2018 WL 3129785 (June 27, 2018) a 5-4 majority of the Court rejected the holding of the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), which permitted such fees, as a wrongly-decided imposition on individual constitutional rights. This landmark decision presents major implications for public-sector union funding in the future, and is notable for all employers with unionized workforces.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Deems Public-Sector Union Agency Fees Unconstitutional

On May 21, 2018, the United States Supreme Court upheld the legality of arbitration agreements containing class action waivers. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Gorsuch, the Court held that arbitration agreements providing for individualized proceedings were valid, and neither the Federal Arbitration Act’s (“FAA”) savings clause, nor the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) suggest otherwise.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Enforceability of Mandatory Employment Class Action Waivers