High court to tackle employment, labor issues
The U.S. Supreme Court will tackle a number of cases in its new term that are expected to influence labor and employment law.
For starters, the court will deal with the question of whether President Obama’s recess appointments of three members of the National Labor Relations Board were constitutionally permissible (NLRB v. Noel Canning). If the court finds these appointments are invalid, hundreds of NLRB decisions made by the so-called recess appointees in the past several years will be invalidated due to the lack of a quorum on the board.
In another case, businesses that have a unionized workforce and require employees to wear any type of protective gear may be affected by the court’s decision in Sandifer v. U.S. Steel Corp.
Under certain circumstances, employers can be required to pay employees for time spent changing into and out of work clothes, although many union contracts agree that the time spent by employees “changing clothes” will be excluded from hours worked. This case will determine whether union agreements can trump wage and hour laws in these circumstances.
Another union-related case, Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, will determine whether an employer and union violate the Labor Management Relations Act by entering into an agreement under which the employer promises to remain neutral with regard to union organizing in exchange for the union’s promise to forgo its rights to picket, boycott or otherwise put pressure on the employer’s business. If the court rules that these neutrality agreements amount to bribery, employers and unions will have to re-examine how they attempt to coexist.
Finally, in a key case that may affect all Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan sponsors and participants, the court will consider when a statute of limitations should begin to run for judicial review of an adverse benefits determination (Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co.).
In this case, an employee filed a claim for long-term disability benefits under her employer’s plan, which required that any lawsuits be filed within three years after the proof of loss was due. The employee went through the internal appeal process, which resulted in a final denial of benefits, but in the meantime the three-year period ran out. The employee contends that the limitations period should not begin to run until the final denial of benefits.