“OK, Boomer,” a meme popularized by younger generations on social media, made its first (and likely only) appearance in the United States Supreme Court last month. If you are unfamiliar with the meme, it is a tongue-in-cheek retort used by young people – often on social media apps like TikTok and Twitter – to criticize older generations for being “out of touch.” Chief Justice John Roberts, 65, invoked the viral meme during oral arguments in Babb v. Wilkie, an age discrimination case. In Babb, a Department of Veterans Affairs pharmacist named Dr. Noris Babb alleges, among other things, that she was denied pay raises and promotions because of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Babb brought suit against Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Continue Reading “OK, Boomer”: From Social Media to the Supreme Court

On Sept. 27, 2018,the Ohio Supreme Court took the unusual step of overturning two prior decisions in an attempt to clarify a confusing aspect of workers’ compensation law. A long-standing tenet of workers’ compensation law, temporary total disability compensation, is intended to compensate an injured worker when they are unable to work due to a work-related injury. To be entitled to temporary total disability compensation, an injured worker must be medically unable to work and the inability to work must be caused by the work injury.

One exception to this rule, and a defense routinely used by employers, is the voluntary abandonment of employment doctrine. In essence, when relying on this defense, the employer argues the injured worker’s own actions caused his or her loss of compensation rather than the work incident and therefore they would not be entitled to compensation. Previously, the Supreme Court limited the scope of this defense by holding that if an injured worker was disabled due to the work injury at the time of the separation of employment, the injured worker remained entitled to temporary total disability compensation.
Continue Reading Voluntary abandonment doctrine strengthened by Ohio Supreme Court

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court in Staub v. Proctor Hospital first endorsed the “Cat’s Paw” theory of liability in a USERRA case. Derived from an Aesop Fable, the Court held that an employee termination based on information from a supervisor with discriminatory or retaliatory intent can provide the basis for employer liability even if the biased supervisor did not participate in the adverse employment decision. Following up on this decision, federal courts began applying the theory to Title VII and other federal discrimination laws. Last week’s 2nd Circuit decision in Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance Service, Inc., took the “Cat’s Paw” theory one step further when it upheld an employer’s liability under Title VII when the adverse employment decision was influenced by the retaliatory intent of a low level co-worker who had no supervisory responsibilities.

Continue Reading 2nd Circuit “Cat’s Paw” decision highlights importance of employer investigations before termination

On Wednesday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously vacated and remanded a 7th Circuit decision that said courts could not review whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) satisfied its conciliation obligations under Title VII. Mach Mining LLC v. EEOC, No. 13-1019 (2015). The review the Court permitted, however, remains limited and

On November 5, 2013, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and Ohio Supreme Court handed down a pair of class action decisions that are major wins for companies and employers. The Sixth Circuit held that courts, not arbitrators, must decide whether an arbitration clause permits classwide arbitrations—and that an arbitration clause that is silent on the issue bars classwide arbitrations. The Ohio Supreme Court followed recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court and held that trial courts must conduct a rigorous analysis when ruling on class certification, including resolution of factual disputes, factual findings and an examination of the merits where necessary. Both decisions addressed issues that have been vigorously debated by parties and lower courts, and they unambiguously did so in favor of class action defendants.

The Sixth Circuit held that courts, not arbitrators, must decide the “gateway” issue of whether an arbitration clause permits classwide arbitration—and that clauses that are silent on the issue do not permit classwide arbitrations.

In Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Crockett, No. 12-3574, (6th Cir. Nov. 5, 2013), the plaintiff was a Texas attorney who alleged that his firm was being charged steep fees for using research databases outside of its LexisNexis Subscription Plan without any displayed warning. The parties’ contract contained an arbitration clause that was silent on the issue of classwide arbitration. Crockett filed a classwide arbitration demand for $500 million on behalf of two putative classes, and LexisNexis asked a federal district court to declare that the arbitration clause did not authorize classwide arbitration. The district court awarded judgment to LexisNexis.
Continue Reading The Sixth Circuit And Ohio Supreme Court Hand Two Major Class Action Wins To Defendants

After putting employees on the ropes with its decision in Vance v. Ball State University (which we blogged on here), the United States Supreme Court finished employees off with the 5-4 decision in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, No. 12-484 (June 24, 2013). The Justices held a plaintiff making a retaliation claim under Title VII must establish that his or her protected activity was the “but-for” cause of the alleged adverse action by the employer, rather than just a motivating factor.
Continue Reading The Supreme Court Lands a Stunning Blow to Employees

In Vance v. Ball State University, No. 11-556 (June 24, 2013), the United States Supreme Court held that an employee is a “supervisor” for purposes of vicarious liability under Title VII only if the employee is empowered by the employer to take tangible employment actions, i.e., to effect a “significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits, against the victim.
Continue Reading SCOTUS Defines “Supervisor” For Title VII Cases as One Who Can Take Tangible Employment Actions

By a tight five-to-four decision, the United States Supreme Court’s Genesis Health Care Corp. v. Symczyk decision provides employers a method to “pick off” the lead plaintiff in an FLSA collective action using a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 offer of judgment and by doing so, take out the remaining collective action.
Continue Reading Genesis: A Unicorn, or the Beginning of a New Tactic? Supreme Court Holds Employers Can “Pick Off” a Named Plaintiff and Defeat a FLSA Collective Action with an offer of Judgment, but Leaves Open If All Employers Can Employ This Strategy

As you might recall, in August we blogged on Martin v. Spring Break ’83 Productions, LLC, a case involving the blockbuster movie “Spring Break ’83” [stated with sarcasm], where the Fifth Circuit became the first federal appellate court to enforce a private FLSA settlement. In that blog, available here, we crossed our fingers and hoped the Fifth Circuit’s decision would come to a jurisdiction near you. Well, that hope is one step closer to reality as the plaintiffs/appellants – now the Petitioners – filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari (the “Petition”) and asked the United States Supreme Court to review the case.
Continue Reading Martin v. Spring Break ’83 Productions, LLC … the Sequel or Part Deux? The Supreme Court is Asked to Review Whether a Private Settlement Agreement Dismissing FLSA Claims is Enforceable