June 25, 2012
Busy Day at the U.S. Supreme Court (Labor and Employment Law Edition)
As the nation now waits until Thursday for the healthcare decision, this post focuses on a number of labor and employment law case law happenings as far as other new Court decisions and new certiorari grants.
On the decision side, the Supreme Court invalidated an Arizona law today in Arizona v. United States (US Supreme Ct 06/25/2012) that would have made it a crime "for a person who is unlawfully present in the United States and who is an unauthorized alien to knowingly apply for work, solicit work in a public place or perform work as an employee or independent contractor in this state." The Court affirmed that this portion of the Arizona statute is preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) because that federal law has a comprehensive framework that makes it illegal for employers to knowingly employ unauthorized workers and that framework does not impose federal criminal sanctions on the undocumented workers. Therefore, a state law cannot impose criminal sanctions for this conduct either.
On the cert. side, the Supreme Court took both a Title VII and ERISA case. In Vance v. Ball State University, the 7th Circuit concluded the authority to direct an employee's daily activities does not establishes supervisory status under Title VII. The Supreme Court will decide "whether as the Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits have held, 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, as the First, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits have held (ii) is limited to those harassers who have the power to 'hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline' their victim."
Finally, an ERISA case of the reimbursement (Knudson/Sereboff) variety has made it to the court. In U.S. Airways Inc. v. McCutchen, the Court will consider whether courts are authorized to use equitable principles to rewrite contractual benefit plan language and refuse to order plan participants to reimburse their plan for benefits paid, even in cases in which the plan's terms give it an absolute right to full reimbursement. The appellate courts have been divided oveer whether ERISA Section 502(a)(3) authorizes courts to take such steps.
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