Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Supreme Court Watch: Employment law cases

We will be watching three pending cases at the US Supreme Court as the Court's session opens today:

Kloeckner v. Solis
Oral argument on October 2.

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) hears appeals by federal employees regarding certain adverse actions, such as dismissals. If the employee asserts that the challenged action was the result of unlawful discrimination, that claim is referred to as a "mixed case."

Question Presented: If the MSPB decides a mixed case without determining the merits of the discrimination claim, is the court with jurisdiction over that claim the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or a district court?

Vance v. Ball State Univ
Oral argument on November 26.

Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998) and Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998) held that under Title VII, an employer is vicariously liable for workplace harassment by a supervisor of the victim. If the harasser was the victim’s co-employee, however, the employer is not liable absent proof of negligence.

Question Presented: Whether the Faragher and Ellerth “supervisor” liability rule (i) applies to harassment by those whom the employer vests with authority to direct and oversee their victim’s daily work, or (ii) is limited to those harassers who have the power to “hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline” their victim.

Genesis HealthCare v. Symczyk
Oral argument December 3.

Symczk sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated. This was a section 216(b) collective action. The defendants extended an offer of judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 in full satisfaction of her alleged damages, fees, and costs - prior to her moving for conditional certification and prior to other potential plaintiffs opting in.

Question Presented: Whether a case becomes moot, and thus beyond the judicial power of Article III, when the lone plaintiff receives an offer from the defendants to satisfy all of the plaintiff's claims.

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