A more conservative Supreme Court than we’ve seen in recent history is poised to consider whether Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on “sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a trio of cases in the 2019-2020 term, which begins in October. We previously wrote on this topic here as the Circuit split was developing.

Not even the federal government tasked with enforcing employment discrimination laws agrees on whether Title VII covers sexual orientation. The Department of Justice reversed course during the Trump administration and now takes the position that sexual orientation is not covered, whereas the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is holding firm to its position, first adopted in 2015, that sexual orientation is covered, as is gender identity. Additionally, under an Executive Order signed by President Obama (not yet rescinded by President Trump) and enforced by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, federal contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to (and separate from) sex.
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And with that elegantly pointed statement, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated an opinion on the Equal Pay Act that had been issued by the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (i.e. the entire group of judges on the Ninth Circuit bench). The opinion had been authored by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who unexpectedly passed away on March 29, 2018. The opinion was not issued until April 9, 2018 – 11 days after his death.
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Co-Author Nick Vogt*

In Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, the United States Supreme Court held that public sector unions may not assess union fees against non-union employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement. In so holding, the Supreme Court overturned its decades-old ruling in the case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Court held that public sector unions could assess fees regardless of membership status, because all employees benefit from union collective bargaining agreements regardless of union membership.
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On Monday, June 4, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated a baker’s constitutional right to the free exercise of his religion, by exhibiting hostility towards the baker’s religious views as expressed in his refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In so holding, the Supreme Court dodged broader questions about the interaction of the baker’s Constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion with customers’ rights to be free from discrimination.
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On May 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis that employment agreements containing waivers of the right to bring class or collective actions over employment-related disputes are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In so doing, the Court rejected the National Labor Relation Board’s position that such waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) – a position subject to much controversy in the courts and federal agencies.
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