President Obama Nominates Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court

Sonia Sotomayor Pres­i­dent Oba­ma today announced (CNN sto­ry and video) his nom­i­na­tion of Sonia Sotomay­or, cur­rent­ly a Judge on the Sec­ond Cir­cuit, to fill the posi­tion on the US Supreme Court to be vacat­ed by the res­ig­na­tion of Jus­tice David Souter.

With­in a few hours of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s announce­ment, the CATO Insti­tute and The Her­itage Foun­da­tion had sig­nif­i­cant arti­cles devot­ed to attack­ing the nom­i­na­tion. Rush Lim­baugh this after­noon called Judge Sotomay­or a “racist”. Sean Han­ni­ty called her a “rad­i­cal” who had made “out­ra­geous” and “amaz­ing” state­ments. The lib­er­al sites raced out arti­cles attack­ing the attack­ers and defend­ing Judge Sotomay­or (Talk­ing Points Memo and The Huff­in­g­ton Post).

The first item that has been cir­cu­lat­ing about Judge Sotomay­or is a state­ment she made about appel­late courts mak­ing “pol­i­cy” dur­ing a pan­el dis­cus­sion at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty in 2005 (note: this clip is length­i­er, and pro­vides much more con­text, than the clips played on most news sites):

Con­tin­ue read­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma Nom­i­nates Sonia Sotomay­or for Supreme Court

Arbitration Agreements in Union Contacts are Enforceable; US Supreme Court in Penn Plaza v. Pyett

USSupremeCourtRightFountain 4/1/09: The US Supreme Court ruled that “pre-dis­pute arbi­tra­tion agree­ments” in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ments (union con­tracts) are enforce­able, in Penn Plaza PLLC v. Pyett, 129 S. Ct. 1456 (2009) (5–4 deci­sion).

This was an age dis­crim­i­na­tion case under the Age Dis­crim­i­na­tion in Employ­ment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The plain­tiff was a mem­ber of a union, and the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment (union con­tract) required sub­mit­ting age dis­crim­i­na­tion claims to bind­ing arbi­tra­tion.

The US Supreme Court had pre­vi­ous­ly ruled, but not in a labor union set­ting, that arbi­tra­tion agree­ments for ADEA claims were enforce­able under the Fed­er­al Arbi­tra­tion Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. (Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 26–33 (1991)). So the real issue in Penn Plaza was whether there would be a dif­fer­ent result because of the union con­tract set­ting and the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Act.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ments in Union Con­tacts are Enforce­able; US Supreme Court in Penn Plaza v. Pyett

West Virginia Legislature May Force Employers to Give Employees Access to Their Personnel Files

WVLegislature 3/10/09: In the West Vir­ginia Leg­is­la­ture, HB 3032, intro­duced on March 10, 2009, would give employ­ees the right to review their per­son­nel files.  The leg­is­la­tion has not been passed, and in pri­or leg­isla­tive ses­sions, essen­tial­ly the same bill was intro­duced with­out hav­ing been passed.

Many peo­ple have the incor­rect under­stand­ing that, in West Vir­ginia, an employ­er is legal­ly required to allow an employ­ee to review the employee’s per­son­nel file. There is cur­rent­ly no such legal require­ment, but the pend­ing HB 3032 will change that if it is passed.

You can review the full text of the bill, and mon­i­tor its sta­tus on the Legislature’s site.

Update 8/1/10: As of this date, the West Vir­ginia Leg­is­la­ture has not passed this bill. There is still no gen­er­al require­ment forc­ing employ­ers to show employ­ees their per­son­nel files.

Fourth Circuit Vacancies; President Obama Will Have 4 of 15 Judicial Positions to Fill

Lewis F Powell Jr. Courthouse, Richmond, Virginia 2/1/09: The US Fourth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals hears appeals from fed­er­al dis­trict courts in West Vir­ginia, Vir­ginia, Mary­land, North Car­oli­na, and South Car­oli­na. The Fourth Cir­cuit has 15 judges when all of the judi­cial posi­tions are occu­pied. How­ev­er, 4 of the 15 judge posi­tions are cur­rent­ly vacant. That means that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma will be able to appoint those 4 judges.

Appoint­ments to these fed­er­al judi­cial posi­tions require the con­fir­ma­tion by the US Sen­ate. The Democ­rats con­trol at this time 58 votes in the Sen­ate, through 56 Democ­rats and 2 Inde­pen­dents (Joe Lieber­man, CT; Bernie Sanders VT) who cau­cus with the Democ­rats. If Al Franken even­tu­al­ly is declared the win­ner in Min­neso­ta, which is expect­ed, the democ­rats will have 59 votes. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma only needs 51 votes to con­firm one of his judi­cial nom­i­na­tions. If the Repub­li­cans chose to fil­i­buster any of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s nom­i­na­tions, the Democ­rats need 60 votes for clo­ture to cut off the fil­i­buster and force a vote (clo­ture requires a three-fifths vote of the vot­ing Sen­a­tors). If the Democ­rats will be start­ing with 59 votes, they will like­ly fre­quent­ly be able to “peel off” a Repub­li­can or two to break the fil­i­buster.

Fed­er­al court of appeals nom­i­na­tions are usu­al­ly made from lawyers with sig­nif­i­cant pri­or judi­cial expe­ri­ence. So the pool of lawyers to be con­sid­ered will like­ly by the cur­rent fed­er­al dis­trict judges, and, less like­ly, cur­rent state court judges.

Giv­en Pres­i­den­tial his­to­ry since 1980, the sub­stan­tial major­i­ty of fed­er­al judges are appointees of Repub­li­can Pres­i­dents (20 years of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­cy ver­sus 8 years of Demo­c­rat pres­i­den­cy).

Fourth Circuit MapOf the cur­rent 11 judges on the Fourth Cir­cuit, 6 were Repub­li­can appointees and 5 were Demo­c­ra­t­ic appointees (although Judge Gre­go­ry was a “hybrid” hav­ing orig­i­nal­ly been appoint­ed by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and then re-appoint­ed by Pres­i­dent George W. Bush). You can view a chart on Wikipedia that sets out the line­up of cur­rent judges and the Pres­i­dents who appoint­ed them

Assum­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma fills all 4 cur­rent vacan­cies, then we will have a realign­ment on the Fourth Cir­cuit to: 9 Demo­c­rat appointees, and 6 Repub­li­can appointees.

NLRB Vacancies: The Potential For Big Changes in Labor Union Law

NLRB Logo 2/1/09: The Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Board (NLRB) con­sist of 5 mem­bers, and the NLRB issues impor­tant deci­sions on a broad range of labor union issues.

There are cur­rent­ly only 2 mem­bers, so there are 3 vacan­cies. Wilma Lieb­man is con­sid­ered lib­er­al and pro-union. Peter Carey Schaum­ber is con­sid­ered con­ser­v­a­tive and pro-man­age­ment.

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma will be able to fill the 3 vacan­cies, with a like­ly sig­nif­i­cant shift in labor law in the Unit­ed States.

US Supreme Court Broadens Definition of “Opposition”; for Retaliation Claims; Crawford v Metropolitan Government of Nashville, 1–26-09

1/26/09: In Craw­ford v. Met­ro­pol­i­tan Gov­ern­ment of Nashville and David­son Coun­ty, Ten­nessee, 129 S. Ct. 846 (2009), the US Supreme Court unan­i­mous­ly ruled that an employ­ee engaged in pro­tect­ed activ­i­ty under Title VII’s retal­i­a­tion pro­vi­sion by answer­ing an employer’s ques­tions in con­nec­tion with a sex­u­al harass­ment inves­ti­ga­tion start­ed by com­pa­ny rumors about a male super­vi­sor. Jus­tice Souter wrote the major­i­ty opin­ion, joined by Roberts, Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Gins­burg, and Brey­er. Jus­tice Ali­to wrote an opin­ion, con­cur­ring in the judg­ment, joined by Jus­tice Thomas.

Ms. Craw­ford Responds to an Inves­ti­ga­tion into Sex­u­al Harass­ment

USSupremeCourt Here is what hap­pened: Rumors start­ed cir­cu­lat­ing about sex­u­al­ly inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior by a male super­vi­sor, Gene Hugh­es, at “Met­ro­pol­i­tan Gov­ern­ment of Nashville and David­son Coun­ty” (“Metro”). A human resources employ­ee start­ed inves­ti­gat­ing, and asked Vicky Craw­ford whether she had seen any inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior by Mr. Hugh­es. Craw­ford respond­ed yes, and described sev­er­al instances of sex­u­al­ly inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior. For exam­ple, Ms. Craw­ford had asked Mr. Hugh­es “what’s up”, and he respond­ed by grab­bing his crotch and say­ing “you know what’s up”. On anoth­er occa­sion, Mr. Hugh­es grabbed Ms. Crawford’s head and pulled it toward his crotch. The human resources employ­ee talked to two oth­er employ­ees who sim­i­lar­ly report­ed sex­u­al­ly harass­ing behav­ior from Mr. Hugh­es.

Con­tin­ue read­ing US Supreme Court Broad­ens Def­i­n­i­tion of “Oppo­si­tion”; for Retal­i­a­tion Claims; Craw­ford v Met­ro­pol­i­tan Gov­ern­ment of Nashville, 1–26–09

Drew Capuder’s Employment Law News

Drew Capuder This blog by Drew Capud­er will be the loca­tion on Capud­er Fan­ta­sia PLLC’s web site for news on employ­ment law. We will cov­er impor­tant court deci­sions, espe­cial­ly from the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court and the Unit­ed States Supreme Court.

The link to this blog is:

If you want to sub­scribe to my blog via email, a brows­er, a news read­er, or oth­er method, here is the link that you will need:

Supreme Court “fills in the blank” to recognize retaliation claims for federal employees under ADEA; Gomez-Perez v. Potter, 2008

USPS Logo 5–27-08: The US Supreme Court in Gomez-Perez v. Pot­ter, 128 S. Ct. 1931 (2008) ruled that the Age Dis­crim­i­na­tion in Employ­ment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., pro­hib­it­ed retal­i­a­tion against fed­er­al employ­ees who had com­plained about age dis­crim­i­na­tion, even though the fed­er­al employ­ee sec­tion of the ADEA did not express­ly pro­hib­it retal­i­a­tion. This was a 6–3 deci­sion. The major­i­ty opin­ion was writ­ten by Jus­tice Ali­to, in which Jus­tices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Gins­burg, and Brey­er joined. Jus­tices Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas dis­sent­ed, with dis­sent­ing opin­ions being writ­ten by Jus­tices Roberts and Thomas.

The Gap in the Fed­er­al Employ­ee Sec­tion of the ADEA

This was the prob­lem under the ADEA: The ADEA’s main sec­tion, in pro­hibit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against employ­ees 40 and old­er, only deals with pri­vate indus­try employ­ees and state gov­ern­ment employ­ees. I will call this sec­tion of the ADEA, the “pri­vate and state employ­ee sec­tions”.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Supreme Court “fills in the blank” to rec­og­nize retal­i­a­tion claims for fed­er­al employ­ees under ADEA; Gomez-Perez v. Pot­ter, 2008

US Supreme Court broadens scope of permissible evidence for proving discrimination; Sprint/United Management v. Mendelsohn; 2/26/08

US Supreme Court Feb­ru­ary 26, 2008: The Unit­ed States Supreme Court hand­ed down its opin­ion in Sprint/United Man­age­ment Co. v. Mendel­sohn, 128 S. Ct. 1140 (2008) (Find­Law site opin­ion). The issue in this fed­er­al age dis­crim­i­na­tion case (ADEA) was whether the plain­tiff could present evi­dence to the jury about oth­er alleged old­er dis­crim­i­na­tion vic­tims, where the deci­sion made to ter­mi­nate the oth­er indi­vid­u­als was not made by the same deci­sion-mak­er that ter­mi­nat­ed the plain­tiff.

The employ­er (Sprint) con­tend­ed that evi­dence of oth­er alleged age dis­crim­i­na­tion vic­tims was not admis­si­ble where the deci­sion-mak­ers for those oth­er vic­tims were dif­fer­ent from the deci­sion-mak­ers who took action against the plain­tiff.

The Supreme Court reject­ed the employer’s argu­ment and said that the evi­dence of oth­er vic­tims might be admis­si­ble, even if dif­fer­ent deci­sion-mak­ers were involved. The tri­al court should con­duct a “bal­anc­ing test” for admis­si­bil­i­ty of dis­crim­i­na­tion against oth­er employ­ees by dif­fer­ent super­vi­sors, where the rel­e­vance of the oth­er employ­ees’ sit­u­a­tion is bal­anced against unfair prej­u­dice to the employ­er.

WV Supreme Court rules that employer’s policy and prompt action protected it against liability; Colgan Air v WV HRC; 10/25/07

West Virginia Capitol Building at Night Octo­ber 25, 2007: In Col­gan Air, Inc. v. West Vir­ginia Human Rights Com­mis­sion, 221 W. Va. 588, 656 S.E.2d 33 (1977) the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court addressed claims of harass­ment (based on reli­gion and nation­al ori­gin) and retal­i­a­tion under the WV Human Rights Act, W. Va. Code § 5–11-1 et seq.

The plain­tiff was a pilot, Rao Zahid Khan, who alleged that his co-work­ers sub­ject­ed him to fre­quent deroga­to­ry and insult­ing com­ments about his nation­al ori­gin and reli­gion (he was Ara­bic). The West Vir­ginia Supreme Court ruled that Col­gan Air (a) was not liable for harass­ment because it had poli­cies and pro­ce­dures pro­hibit­ing harass­ment and took swift and deci­sive action after learn­ing about the harass­ment, and (b) was not liable for retal­i­a­tion because Col­gan Air ter­mi­nat­ed the employ­ee (Mr. Khan) for a legit­i­mate and non-dis­crim­i­na­to­ry reason–he failed to pass a manda­to­ry FAA pro­fi­cien­cy test for pilots.

Con­tin­ue read­ing WV Supreme Court rules that employer’s pol­i­cy and prompt action pro­tect­ed it against lia­bil­i­ty; Col­gan Air v WV HRC; 10/25/07