There are three new law cases, impacting employers and business enterprises, that are on the docket of the Supreme Court this Fall. These cases have been relatively ignored by the media and have the potential to greatly impact businesses.
Case I – Racial Discrimination
Comcast is attempting to stop a lawsuit by Entertainment Studios Networks Inc., which says racial discrimination is the reason it couldn’t get its channels onto the carrier’s cable systems. At issue is a provision known as Section 1981, a Reconstruction-era law that bars racial discrimination in contracting. Comcast says the appeals court improperly made it easier to sue under that statute than under other civil rights laws. Entertainment Studios, owned by comedian and producer Byron Allen, says it tried for years to get its channels carried by Comcast. The suit alleges Comcast officials refused to reach a deal, even while expanding offerings of less-known, white-owned channels. The case was dismissed in federal court, but the 9th Circuit revived the lawsuit concluding that the plaintiff only had to show that race was a factor, not that it was the motivating or “but for” to prove discrimination. The Supreme Court’s decision will decide whether this type of contractual discrimination lawsuit (which can be brought by an enterprise) must be proven by a tougher standard.
Case II – Age Discrimination
In Babb v. Wilkie, the Court will consider the standard of proof for federal government workers who bring claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as opposed to private-sector employees. The federal government argued that a strict “but for” standard should apply to federal workers’ claims, meaning that the employee must show the adverse employment action would not have been taken “but for” the employer’s bias. The employee in the case argued that a more lenient standard should apply that considers whether age bias was a motivating factor for the negative employment decision.
Case III – Employee Retirement Income Security Act
In Intel Corp. Investment Policy Comm. v. Sulyma, a former employee filed a lawsuit against Intel’s retirement plan committee for allegedly breaching fiduciary duties by making poor investments. The committee defended based upon ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations to file such claims. Intel argued that the lawsuit is barred because the employee received all the relevant plan investment information more than three years before he filed the complaint. But the employee argued that his claim is timely because he did not discover the problem until he read the investment information, filing the lawsuit. A result against Intel will result in more claims against employer investment fiduciaries.
Contributed by guest author: Spognardi Baiocchi LLP, a law firm dedicated to partnering with companies of all sizes to find solutions for labor, employment, human resources, and general business needs. Contact: www.psb-attorneys.com.
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