- Curtis Dubay, The Heritage Foundation
On June 30, 2015, the Supreme Court decided to revisit whether the First Amendment permits the government to compel its employees to financially support a union by granting certiorari in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, No. 14-915. In Friedrichs, the Court will consider whether to overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which held that public employees can be compelled to financially support union collective-bargaining with government, but not union political activities.
The Court’s grant of certiorari in Friedrichs comes on the one-year anniversary of its decision in Harris v. Quinn, where Court criticized Abood’s rationales, but did not overrule Abood after finding it inapplicable to the non-employee Medicaid providers who brought the case. Unlike Harris, Friedrichs squarely presents the issue decided in Abood—whether public school teachers can be required to pay compulsory union fees as condition of their employment.
The Friedrichs petitioners argue that Abood should be overturned because there is no distinction between bargaining with government and lobbying government—both are political speech. The respondent California Teachers Association, however, counters that union bargaining with government is akin to bargaining with a private employer, and that it wrongful for teachers to get a so-called “free ride” on union bargaining efforts.
Is the Court likely to overrule Abood? And what will be the implications if it does?
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc, decided on June 1, involves Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits a prospective employer from (among other things) refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship. The question here is whether this prohibition applies only where an applicant has informed the employer of his need for an accommodation. The Tenth Circuit had ruled in favor of Abercrombie, concluding that an employer could not be held liable until an applicant (or employee) provided the employer with actual knowledge of her need for an accommodation.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Tenth Circuit by a vote of 8-1 and remanded the case for further proceedings. A request for accommodation, or the employer’s certainty that the practice at issue exists, the Court explained, may make it easier to infer the requisite motive, but it is not a necessary condition of liability under Title VII.
The Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan joined Justice Scalia’s majority opinion. Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the case, we have Michael Rosman, who is General Counsel at the Center for Individual Rights.
When is an employer liable or not liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for refusing to hire an applicant or discharging an employee based on a “religious observance and practice?” We discussed the case decided on June 1, 2015 by the U.S. Supreme Court.on this Courthouse Steps Teleforum conference call.
On April 29, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Mach Mining v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This case involves the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) Title VII duty to investigate claims of discrimination levied against an employer and to make good faith efforts to eliminate discriminatory employment practices before filing suit against that employer. The question this case asks is whether and to what extent a court may enforce the EEOC's duty to conciliate discrimination claims before filing suit.
In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice Kagan, the Court held that courts have the authority to review whether the EEOC has fulfilled its statutory duty to conciliate discrimination claims prior to filing suit against an employer. The judgment of the Seventh Circuit was vacated and remanded.
To discuss the case, we have Mr. Paul Mirengoff. Mr. Mirengoff is a retired attorney in Washington, D.C. and is a blogger at powerlineblog.com.