Recent Supreme Court Decisions Affect Employers

Submitted by Firm:
Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, P.C.
Firm Contacts:
Abtin Mehdizadegan, J. Bruce Cross, Misty Wilson Borkowski
Article Type:
Legal Update

The United States Supreme Court is winding down their 2014 session in dramatic fashion. Several important decisions were handed down this year with several high-profile opinions being issued by the Court. Experts have noted that this year's session also resulted in several challenges to the Executive branch. Historically, the Supreme Court upholds Executive actions 70% of the time; however, this year, the Court ruled against the White House's agenda in almost 50% of their opinions. The following cases highlight a few recent opinions impacting employers:

  • Noel Canning - In this case, the Court held that the President does not have the authority to exercise his recess appointment powers while Congress is in session. As a result, multiple presidential appointments to the NLRB made back in 2012 were invalidated. While this case deals more with future Executive action, the ruling impacts hundreds of NLRB decisions that were issued by the NLRB during the time period when the NLRB lacked a sufficient quorum to rule. It remains unclear how the NLRB plans to address those arguably void decisions.
  • Hobby Lobby - In likely the most publicized case, the Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, which forced private companies with more than 50 employees to pay for insurance benefits that included birth control or have to pay daily fines. The ruling allows private corporations with "closely held religious beliefs" to be exempt from the ACA's mandate because of religious freedoms afforded under federal law.

Harris v. Quinn - In this narrow (but notable) opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that home health workers in Illinois did not have to pay dues to the union representing all public employees. Under Illinois's regulations, the simple fact that the workers were reimbursed by Medicare was enough to constitute them as being "public employees" and therefore subject to union membership even though they were not directly employed by any state or local entity. The Court found that the mandatory dues payments infringed on those workers' First Amendment rights because the union would have "spoken for them" on various issues without their right to vote.