Fourth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference
The slogan "Personnel is policy" reflects the principle that hiring the right people is one of the most important things that employers do. An employer with an innovative approach to bringing on board the best people has a critical edge over her competition. But the rise of interpretations of federal employment law that basically give the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") veto power over nearly any employment decision means that many creative ideas about hiring will be stillborn. Notably, the EEOC interprets federal civil rights law not just to prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, and age, but also on practices that have a "disparate impact" on members of such groups even if the practice is not actually discriminatory. Because virtually any job qualification has a disparate impact on members of some such group, this interpretation confers extraordinary powers on the EEOC. Disparate impact is widely believed to have led many employers to abandon paper and pencil tests of cognitive ability. More recently, employers have been discouraged from using the Internet to recruit because racial minorities were thought to lack access to the internet relative to members of other racial and ethnic groups. Further, the EEOC also has put pressure on employers to abandon the use of credit and criminal background checks because of their alleged disparate impact on racial minorities. This panel will discuss how the metastasis of disparate impact has strangled innovative hiring strategies in these areas as well as others and other perverse consequences of disparate impact's growth.
This panel was presented during the Fourth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference on May 17, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.
- Hon. Gail Heriot, United States Commission on Civil Rights, and Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law
- Mr. James Scanlan, Attorney at Law
- Mr. James Sharf, Sharf & Associates
- Moderator: Mr. John Irving, Of Counsel, Kirkland & Ellis
The Mayflower Hotel SCOTUScast 4-5-16 featuring Kenton J. Skarin
On February 22, 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in CRST Van Expedited, Inc. v. EEOC. In 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a sexual harassment suit against CRST Van Expedited (CRST) on behalf of approximately 270 female employees. When a number failed to appear for depositions, however, the district court barred the EEOC from pursuing their claims as a discovery sanction. The remaining claims were dismissed on various other grounds, including 67 claims that the district court dismissed for failure of the EEOC to separately investigate, find reasonable cause for, or attempt to conciliate them. In addition, the court awarded CRST some $4.46 million in attorney’s fees and expenses, on the basis that the claims were frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation. On appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all but two claims, vacated the award of fees and costs, and remanded the case. On remand, one of the remaining claims was withdrawn and the other settled. CRST renewed its petition for fees, costs, and expenses, and the district court again awarded it approximately $4.6 million.
On a second appeal the Eighth Circuit again reversed the award, finding that claims which had been dismissed for the EEOC’s failure to meet presuit obligations could not serve as grounds for an award, and remanding for an individualized determination as to whether other claims were frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.
The Supreme Court granted CRST’s subsequent petition for certiorari on the following question: whether a dismissal of a Title VII case, based on the EEOC’s total failure to satisfy its pre-suit investigation, reasonable cause, and conciliation obligations, can form the basis of an attorney’s fee award to the defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k).
To discuss the case, we have Kenton J. Skarin, who is an Associate at Jones Day. SCOTUScast 3-22-16 featuring Daniel R. Thies
Daniel R. Thies March 22, 2016
On January 20, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Montanile v. Board of Trustees of the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan. Petitioner Montanile was injured by a drunk driver and his benefits plan paid more than $120,000 in medical expenses. He later sued the drunk driver, obtaining a $500,000 settlement. The benefits plan, governed by the Employees Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), contained a subrogation clause requiring a participant to reimburse the plan for medical expenses if the participant later recovers money from a third party for his or her injuries. When respondent plan administrator/fiduciary sought reimbursement from Montanile’s litigation settlement, he refused, and the administrator sued in federal court, seeking an equitable lien on any settlement funds or property in Montanile’s possession. Montanile argued that because he had by then spent almost all of the settlement, no identifiable fund existed against which to enforce the lien. The District Court rejected Montanile’s argument and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed that judgment.
By a vote of 8-1 the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Eleventh Circuit, holding that when a participant dissipates the whole settlement on nontraceable items, the fiduciary cannot bring a suit to attach the participant’s general assets under ERISA §502(a)(3) because the suit is not one for “appropriate equitable relief.” The Court deemed it unclear whether Montanile had in fact dissipated all of his settlement in this manner, however, and thus remanded the case for further proceedings.
Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Alito joined the majority opinion except for Part III-C. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the case, we have Daniel R. Thies, who is an associate at Sidley Austin LLP. SCOTUScast 2-24-16 featuring George Conway
On January 25, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Amgen Inc v. Harris without oral argument. Former employees of an Amgen subsidiary had participated in a benefit plan that offered ownership of Amgen stock. When the value of Amgen stock fell in 2007, stockholders filed a class action against plan fiduciaries alleging a breach of fiduciary duties, including the duty of prudence, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit initially reversed a district court decision dismissing the class action complaint, the U.S. Supreme Court then vacated the Ninth Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case in light of the Supreme Court’s then-recent decision Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, which set forth the standards for stating a claim for breach of the duty of prudence against fiduciaries who manage employee stock ownership plans.
On remand, the Ninth Circuit reiterated its conclusion that the plaintiffs’ complaint stated a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, and the Supreme Court again granted certiorari. In a per curiam opinion the Court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit by a vote of 9-0, holding that the Circuit had failed to properly evaluate the complaint. In its current form, the Supreme Court concluded, the complaint failed to state a claim for breach of the duty of prudence. In remanding the case, however, the Court indicated that the district court could decide in the first instance whether the stockholders might amend their complaint in order to adequately plead a claim for breach of the duty of prudence.
To discuss the case, we have George T. Conway III, who is Partner, Litigation at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Short Video with Richard Epstein
Professor Richard Epstein, Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, continues to give an brief history of unions and collective bargaining -- focusing on changes in markets resulting from globalization and discussing the instance of unions in the Japanese automobile industry.