• Four to Go (U.S. Supreme Court 2006-2007 docket)
  • November 14, 2006
  • Law Firm: McGlinchey Stafford, PLLC - New Orleans Office
  • The 2006-2007 term of the United States Supreme Court opened in October with 38 cases awaiting oral argument, including four employment law cases and a False Claims Act whistleblower case that may have implications for employers. Over the last ten years, the number of workplace law cases pending at the start of the term has varied from zero to 14, the average being seven cases per year. In addition to the whistleblower item, the docket contains a case involving a challenge to the constitutionality of a state “paycheck protection” law that restricts unions’ use of nonmembers’ agency fees, a claim of sex discrimination in pay in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) case brought by an injured railroad worker, and a tort suit by a former employee of a federal contractor against a federal employee.

    In Davenport v. Washington Education Association , the justices are asked to consider the constitutionality of a Washington law requiring unions to obtain each nonmember’s authorization in order to use any part of their agency fees for political purposes. WEA argues that the Washington law is unique among campaign practices laws and “cuts deeply into the right of unions ... to engage in political speech through such means as political advertising and internal political communications.”

    Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. will explore whether and under what circumstances a plaintiff may bring an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging illegal pay discrimination when the disparate pay is received during the statutory limitations period, but is the result of intentionally discriminatory pay decisions that occurred outside the limitations period.

    Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Sorrell addresses what the causation standard should be for employee contributory negligence in a FELA case. A finding of contributory negligence reduces the injured employee’s damages.

    In Osborn v. Haley, the court will hear oral argument involving the Westfall Act, which allows the U.S. Attorney General to certify that federal employees were acting within the scope of their employment when they allegedly committed a tort — in this case, participating in contractors’ employment decisions.

    Rockwell International Corp. v. United States ex rel. Stone explores whether the Tenth Circuit erred by misinterpreting the statutory definition of an “original source” in a whistleblower case, and whether the judgment must be reversed because the qui tam provisions violate the Appointments and Take Care Clauses of Article II of the United States Constitution.

    We’ll keep you posted on determinations in these important cases.