The U.S. Supreme Court Is Back In Session – What Does This Mean For Employers?

Contributed by Heather Bailey

As with every Fall, the United States Supreme Court is back in session with less than the normal amount of employment cases, but important ones nonetheless.  This session includes the following employment (and employment-related) cases up for decision by our highest court:

  • To be a true “supervisor” for purposes of Title VII (i.e., race harassment), does the individual have to have authority to hire, fire, and discipline the alleged victim in order for the employer to be vicariously liable?  The problem is that some federal appeals courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission find that just overseeing and managing the employees’ day-to-day duties is sufficient.
  • There are two pending class action disputes – i) does the employer’s offer of judgment (aka settlement offer) that satisfies the solo plaintiff’s claims moot the Fair Labor Standards Act’s collective action, vitiating the other member’s ability to be part of the class action; and ii) can a court certify a class of individuals under Rule 23 without the plaintiff(s) first having to show with admissible evidence that all of the class members are entitled to some damages?
  • One ERISA case will be decided as to whether an employer’s health benefit plan can seek full reimbursement from plan participants where the participants sought additional recovery from third parties during personal injury settlements. What is a fiduciary’s “appropriate equitable relief” will be challenged because there are times the participant’s third party recovery is less than the medical expenses accrued.
  • An affirmative action case against the University of Texas — although not employment-related — could have a significant impact on future employment litigation.  Here, the woman is alleging that the use of affirmative action racial quotas for admission is a violation of her Constitutional rights.  The Equal Employment Advisory Council filed a brief for neither party, but asked the Court to take into consideration its decision will have on future employment affirmative action cases for private employers.

Stay tuned as SmithAmundsen will report back immediately once decisions are rendered in these cases.