Skip to Main Content

Keeping you informed

Initial Supreme Court Docket Light on Employment Cases

    Client Alerts
  • October 12, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court's current term opened October 1, but at this early stage only contains a handful of employment related cases. However, decisions in non-employment cases involving class action certification and affirmative action could have a significant effect on employers.

As of now, the Court's docket contains the following cases:

Genesis Health Care Corp. v. Symczyk addresses whether an offer of full relief to the named plaintiff in a Fair Labor Standards Act collective action case renders the claim moot. The plaintiffs argue that this tactic could be used to "pick off" named plaintiffs to defeat collective action certification.

Vance v. Ball State Univ. will determine the definition of a supervisor under Title VII. Under earlier decisions, employers can be vicariously liable for harassment by supervisors even if they were not aware of the conduct. The lower court stated that supervisors must have the ability to hire, fire or discipline employees, while the plaintiff and the EEOC say that a supervisor is merely someone who directs the work of the employee.

US Airways v. McCutchen will review the obligation of injured employees who receive personal injury settlements to reimburse employers' group health plans for benefits they receive relating to the injury.

Kloeckner v. Solis deals with federal court jurisdiction over certain federal employee claims.

In addition to these employment decisions, the Supreme Court will consider two cases dealing with the ability of federal courts to certify class action claims without an analysis of whether damages can be awarded to the class. If plaintiffs are required to provide substantial evidence, including expert analysis prior to certification, defendants including employers could have additional grounds to defeat class certification before incurring many of the costs associated with such claims.

Finally, the Court will hear a case dealing with race-based affirmative action in public university admissions. Although this case could be narrowly decided, it is possible that the Court could use it as an opportunity to make broad changes regarding the use of affirmative action, including federal contractor requirements.

In addition to these cases, it is likely that the Supreme Court will add additional employment appeals as the new term progresses.