Wyatt Employment Law Report


President Trump Nominates Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court: What Does This Mean for Employment Law?

By Thomas E. Travis

On July 9, 2018, President Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to the Supreme Court.  If confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh will fill the seat recently vacated on July 31 by retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Here’s what we know about Kavanaugh and how his appointment to the Court will impact emerging issues in labor and employment law.

Judge Kavanaugh has been a member of the D.C. Circuit for the past twelve years and has an extensive paper trail, especially with respect to reviewing administrative agency determinations.  He is generally perceived as contemplative and precise, with a reputation as a textualist and originalist jurist, meaning that he attempts to interpret legal texts as written and according to their original understandings at the time they were enacted.  The resulting consequence often finds Judge Kavanaugh skeptical of Continue reading


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Supreme Court Considers Validity of Employment Contracts Prohibiting Class or Collective Action

By Douglas L. McSwain

On October 2, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States heard three combined cases raising an important legal question that likely will affect innumerable employment contracts used in this country.  The Court heard Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, Ernst & Young, LLP v. Morris and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Murphy Oil (USA).  The Court’s ruling in these three cases will determine the validity of arbitration clauses that waive or prohibit the employee from pursuing collective, class or joint actions in court or in arbitration proceedings.

The lower courts have differed on this question, and the oral argument before the Supreme Court indicates the Justices are likely to split in what could turn out to be a closely decided ruling, perhaps with a thin majority of Justices (i.e., potentially a 5-4 decision).  No one knows for sure how the case will be finally decided by the Supreme Court, and predictions about how the Justices will rule, at this juncture, are premature at best.  The questioning that occurred during oral argument seems to suggest Continue reading


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U.S. Supreme Court remands transgender bathroom case back to Fourth Circuit

By Courtney Samford

On March 6, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded a case involving a transgender high school student back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The case, Gloucester County School Board, Petitioner v.  G. G., By His Next Friend and Mother, Deirdre Grimm, focuses on the right of a transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity at his public high school.  Grimm, who was born a girl, used the boys’ restrooms with the approval of school administration until the Gloucester County School Board enacted a policy that required all students to use the bathroom that corresponded with their gender assigned at birth.

Grimm filed suit, alleging that the school board’s policy discriminated against him in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.  The lower court dismissed Grimm’s Title IX claim.   Following an appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed, finding that the lower court did not Continue reading


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United States Supreme Court to Resolve Class Action Waiver Issue

By Michelle D. Wyrick

In a matter of great interest to many employers, last week, the United States Supreme Court agreed to decide whether arbitration agreements that prohibit employees from pursuing class and collective remedies are enforceable. Courts are currently divided on the issue. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in three cases, Epic Sys. Corp. v. Lewis, from the Seventh Circuit, Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris, from the Ninth Circuit, and NLRB v. Murphy Oil, USA, from the Fifth Circuit, to resolve the question.

The dispute pits the savings clause of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §2, which allows invalidation of arbitration agreements only “upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract” against employees’ rights to engage in protected, concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §157. The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) takes the position that provisions in arbitration agreements requiring employees to waive their rights to pursue class or collective actions violate employees’ rights to engage in protected, concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). In May 2016, the Seventh Circuit agreed and Continue reading


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21 States (Including Kentucky) and Several Businesses File Lawsuits Challenging DOL Final Rule Raising Salary for Exempt Workers

By Sharon L. Gold

money-roll-694667smallThis week, Kentucky, alongside 20 other states, sued the Department of Labor in a Texas Federal Court.  The states’ Complaint, 4:16-cv-00731, attacks the DOL’s Final Rule that raises the salary minimum for exempt workers.  That same day, numerous businesses and the Chamber of Commerce filed a similar Complaint, 4:16-cv-732, challenging the regulation.

The states contend that the Final Rule infringes upon state sovereignty and federalism by dictating the wages that a state must pay its employees.  The states contend that “as a result of the new overtime rules and the accompanying damage to state budgets, states will be forced to eliminate or alter employment relationships and cut or reduce services and programs.  Left unchecked, DOL’s salary basis test and compensation levels will wreck state budgets.”  States’ Complaint at 84.  As to Kentucky, the Complaint alleges that Continue reading


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Sixth Circuit Reversed in Union Benefits Health Case: Supreme Court Rules Against Retired Workers

By Amanda Warford Edge

On Monday, in M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, No. 13-1010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ambiguous provisions in union contracts should not be automatically interpreted in favor of a company’s retired workers. The case concerned a union contract from the 1990s that provided free health care benefits to the retirees of a chemical plant in Apple Grove, West Virginia who received pensions. In 2000, M&G bought the plant, and in 2006, it sought to make its retirees contribute to the health care costs. The retirees sued, alleging that they had been promised free benefits for life. The contract, of course, did not directly state whether the parties intended lifetime investiture.

Medical Records & StethoscopeThe district court found for M&G—but according to the Sixth Circuit, the retirees’ benefits had, in fact, vested for life. The Sixth Circuit relied on a long line of precedent, dating back to 1983, in support of this holding. Essentially, this precedent presumed the existence of lifetime benefits, even when the contracts at issue did not specify them. In Tackett, the Sixth Circuit expanded upon this presumption, holding that Continue reading


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Supreme Court Holds that Employer-Required Security Screenings Are Not Compensable Time in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, 574 U.S. ___ (2014).

On December 9, 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously held that warehouse employees were not entitled to be compensated for time spent at the end of their shifts in security screenings. The Court held that the post-shift screening activity was not compensable because it was not “integral and indispensable” to the principal activities the employees were hired to perform.

employee_staff_punch_clock_medThe employer, Integrity Staffing, provides warehouse  employee staffing to Amazon.com in various locations throughout the U.S. The Plaintiffs were hired to locate products in a warehouse and prepare them to be shipped. Id. at 1-2. Integrity Staffing required that its warehouse workers undergo security screenings at the end of their shifts to protect against employee theft. These screenings involved employees removing items like wallets, keys and belts, and passing through metal detectors. This process sometimes took up to 25 minutes. Id. at 2.

The Plaintiff/employees argued that they were entitled to be paid under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for time spent waiting in line to undergo security screenings. They argued that the security screenings were solely for Continue reading