Walter Matthau and Jill Clayburgh were gifted actors. But the new term of the Supreme Court, which opens today, promises to generate some drama of its own as well.
Somewhat lost amid the understandable attention received by the historic same-sex marriage and Obamacare rulings last year were several important Supreme Court employment law cases regarding employee compensation for waiting time under the Fair Labor Standards Act, pregnancy discrimination, the obligations of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to try to resolve cases before filing suit and employer responsibilities when dealing with employee religious observances.
The Court’s current term, which runs through next June, should provide much of interest as well. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the most high-profile case, the Court will consider whether to overrule a 28-year old decision finding that the First Amendment did not prevent union-represented public-sector workers from being required to pay what are known as “agency fees” for their share of union activity. Court watchers believe a majority of the Court has been ready to revisit this issue for years. A broad ruling against the union in the case could dramatically diminish the role and financial strength of public-sector unions.
The Court will also consider other cases concerning the procedure and proof requirements of a class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act and how much time can elapse before an employee who resigns is barred from bringing suit that his employer “constructively” discharged him by making his work environment too intolerable to continue.