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 4-20-16 featuring Richard A. Epstein
On March 29, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. A group of public school employees sued the California Teachers Association and various other entities, arguing that the agency shop arrangement itself--as well as the opt-out requirement--violated the First Amendment. The district court denied their claim and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed based on existing precedent and the 1997 Supreme Court decision Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The two questions before the Supreme Court were (1) whether the Abood precedent should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment; and (2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.
In a one-sentence per curiam opinion, the judgment of the Ninth Circuit was affirmed by an equally divided Supreme Court, a 4-4 split.
To discuss the case, we have Richard A. Epstein, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law and Professor Emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. 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 3-30-16 featuring Michael Toth
Michael Toth March 31, 2016
On February 22, 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Kingdomware Technologies v. United States. Kingdomware Technologies is a certified, service-disabled veteran owned small business, or SDVOSB--a special type of veteran-owned small business, or VOSB. In 2012, Kingdomware filed a bid protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) when the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awarded a contract to a Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contractor who was not a VOSB. Kingdomware argued that the award violated 38 U.S.C. § 8127(d)’s “Rule of Two.” That provision directs that VA contracting officers, except under certain circumstances, “shall award contracts on the basis of competition restricted to small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans if the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans will submit offers and that the award can be made at a fair and reasonable price that offers best value to the United States.”
Although the GAO agreed with Kingdomware and recommended a re-bid, the VA declined to follow the GAO recommendation and Kingdomware sued the VA in the Court of Federal Claims. That Court ruled in favor of the VA and Kingdomware appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. A divided panel of the Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment of the Court of Claims, concluding that Kingdomware’s interpretation of “shall award” failed to account for qualifying provisions elsewhere in the statute.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether the Federal Circuit erred by adopting a construction of § 8127(d)'s mandatory set-aside for VOSBs that arguably rendered the “Rule of Two” discretionary at the option of the VA.
To discuss the case, we have Michael Toth, who is a lawyer in Washington, D.C. Labor & Employment Law Practice Group Podcast
On Tuesday, March 29, the U.S. Supreme Court announced a 4-4 decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The two questions presented were: (1) Whether the Abood precedent should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment; and (2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech. What is the effect of the 4-4 decision? Are there other cases percolating in the circuit courts that might present the same or similar questions to the Court in the near future?
- Prof. Richard A. Epstein, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law