Big Year Ahead for Employment Law in the Supreme Court

Now that it’s getting darker, colder, and generally more and more questionable why we live in this State, it’s more important than ever to rally around things that can at least distract us from the bleakness outside, if not entertain us altogether.  With that, let’s take a moment to preview something to look forward to: the seven (count ‘em, 7!) employment law-related cases the Supreme Court will be deciding in its current term, which just got underway.

*Clicking on a case name will take you the corresponding SCOTUSblog page, where you can find additional information.  Full credit goes to the writers of that blog for issue summaries in this post (brief commentary is all our own).

Young v. United Parcel Service

The issue presented: Whether, and in what circumstances, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k), requires an employer that provides work accommodations to non-pregnant employees with work limitations to provide work accommodations to pregnant employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.”

Spoiler Alert!  Due to the importance of this case in the everyday workplace, we’ll be highlighting this case with a more in-depth preview (more to look forward to!).

EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.

The issue presented: Whether an employer can be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for refusing to hire an applicant or discharging an employee based on a “religious observance and practice” only if the employer has actual knowledge that a religious accommodation was required and the employer’s actual knowledge resulted from direct, explicit notice from the applicant or employee.

Ditto Spoiler Alert!  (We’ll be highlighting this one as well.)

Mach Mining v. EEOC

The issue presented: Whether and to what extent a court may enforce the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s mandatory duty to conciliate (aka, try to resolve) claims before filing suit.

This one will be interesting, because the EEOC has been accused of suing first and negotiating later, with the arguable result of unnecessarily driving up litigation expenses for the companies on the wrong end of the EEOC lawsuit.

Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk

The issue presented: Whether time spent in security screenings is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act.

Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean

The issue presented: Whether certain statutory protections codified at 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8)(A), which are inapplicable when an employee makes a disclosure “specifically prohibited by law,” can bar an agency from taking an enforcement action against an employee who intentionally discloses Sensitive Security Information.

This is a whistleblower case involving the disclosure of “Sensitive Security Information,” which is sensitive, but unclassified, information.  Disclosure of Sensitive Security Information is prohibited by regulation, but creates the question of whether its disclosure is “specifically prohibited by law.”  If it is, then the disclosure would not provide whistleblower protections to the disclosing individual.

M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett

The issue presented: Whether, when construing collective bargaining agreements in Labor Management Relations Act cases, courts should: (1) presume that silence concerning the duration of the retiree healthcare benefits means the parties intended those benefits to vest (and therefore continue indefinitely) (as held by the Sixth Circuit); (2) require a clear statement that healthcare benefits are intended to survive the termination of the collective bargaining agreements (as held by the Third Circuit); or (3) require at least some language in the agreement that can reasonably support an interpretation that healthcare benefits should continue indefinitely (as held by the Second and Seventh Circuits).

Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association

The issue presented: Whether a federal agency must engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act before it can significantly alter an interpretive rule that articulates an interpretation of an agency regulation.