Top 3 Big Employment Litigation Cases
With the recent nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, he fills a conservative vacancy left open by the death of Antonin Scalia. After Scalia passed away, the court was left with 8 Justices who in 2017 (prior to the nomination of Gorsuch) voted on 3 key employment law cases: Spokeo v. Robins, Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo and Zubik v. Burwell.
There was some initial concern that the court could have deadlocked at 4-4 sans Scalia, but as of April 17th, 2017, SCOTUS issued a majority ruling in the 3 above employment law cases. Here are the 3 big employment litigation cases that wound their way up to the Supreme Court and despite the potential for deadlock due to only 8 sitting Justices, were ruled upon in a majority ruling.
Spokeo v. Robins
The issue of this case is whether or not a person can bring a lawsuit against a company when that company violates Federal Privacy law. Spokeo, Inc. is a website that discloses information to the public about people. Age, occupation, marital status, etc are all available to the public. Some of the information that they disclose is subject to protection under federal privacy laws.
A gentleman by the name of Thomas Robbins sued Spokeo and claimed they had disclosed information about him that was inaccurate, which in turn harmed his employment prospects. He also claimed that this violated his rights under the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act).
This highly anticipated case was vacate and remanded back to the 9th circuit court. There are several other court cases that were put on hold in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling and now that the case has been kicked back down to the 9th Circuit, only time will tell as to how the outcome will be.
Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo
Several thousand employees who worked at a Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Iowa filed a lawsuit against Tyson alleging that Tyson cheated them out of overtime pay. At the heart of the lawsuit was the employees not being paid for time working.
When working in a slaughterhouse, one has to wear protective gear prior to butchering animals such as hogs and chickens. This protective gear prevents the workers from accidentally being cut by sharp knives and other butchering instruments. Tyson Foods was not paying these workers for the time they took to dress and undress in and from their protecting clothing and gear.
The case wound up in the Supreme Court where it was ruled in favor of the workers in a 6-to-2 decision. Justice Kennedy stated that even though Tyson did not keep records on the time it took for workers to dress and undress, statistical analysis performed by experts was suffice. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented and stated that this sets a dangerous precedent as employers now have to track any time that could be subject to an innovative lawsuit.
Zubik v. Burwell
This was another case that as of May 2017 has no solid outcome. It worked its way up to the Supreme Court where it was then remanded back down to lower courts for reconsideration. At the crux of this case is whether or not religious institutions (other than churches) should be exempt from the contraceptive mandate. This mandate was a regulartion adopted by the US Department of Health and Human Services under the Affodable Care act (aka “Obamacare”).
Upwards of 7 individual lawsuits were filed, and in 2015 the U.S. Supreme court consolidated all 7 cases into one big case under the title: Zubik v. Burwell. On May 16th, 2016 all 7 cases were sent back to the lower courts for more consideration.