chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
June 07, 2024

Overview of the U.S. Supreme Court 2023–24 Term Labor and Employment Decisions

Adrienne Wood

The Supreme Court has produced some headline making decisions recently, particularly in the labor and employment law area. The 2023–2024 term appears to be another blockbuster year. Below are brief summaries of just four of the major employment law related cases that will be heard this term.

Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, No. 22-451

In Loper, the Court will reconsider the “Chevron Deference” doctrine that requires courts to acquiesce to an agency’s interpretation of the law, a staple of administrative law for almost forty years.

In Loper, a group of commercial fishermen sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) because of a rule that imposes fees on fishermen used to fund a monitoring program. The fishermen argue that the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 does not authorize the NMFS to fund these programs with industry-imposed fees. Specifically, while the Act requires fisheries operating within a certain limit to allow federal observers onboard their vessels, it is silent as to the source of funding for these observers. NMFS interpreted this ambiguity to mandate that the cost of the salaries of federal observers be paid by the fishermen. The Court will address two questions: (1) if the Magnuson-Stevens Act authorizes the NMFS to promulgate a rule that requires fishermen to pay for the atsea monitoring program, and (2) should the Court overrule Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. or clarify whether an agency is afforded deference when the statute is silent.

Acheson Hotels v. Laufer, No. 22-429

At issue in this case was whether a “civil rights tester,” who visits business to look for alleged violations Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), had adequate standing to sue for ADA violations if she lacked the intent to ever utilize the public space at issue. On December 4, 2023, the Court dismissed the case as moot because the Plaintiff had voluntarily dismissed her suit in the lower court.

Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, No. 22-193

While discrimination is typically not tolerated under the law, what about when that discrimination results in a neutral action instead of an adverse action? In Muldrow, in a decision issued April 17, 2024, the Court addressed whether the lateral transfer of an employee, when that transfer is based on a discriminatory reason, is actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Under the Civil Rights Act, discriminatory employment actions are prohibited if they are “materially adverse.” The Court held that an employee challenging a job transfer until Title VII must show that the transfer brought about some harm with respect to an identifiable term or condition of employment, but that harm need not be significant.

Murray v. UBS Securities, No. 22-660: In Murray, the Court was asked to clarify the burden of proof required by both parties under the whistleblower protections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”). The whistleblower protections referenced in SOX state that when a whistleblower invokes the protections under SOX, their claim is governed by a burden shifting framework that requires the whistleblower to meet their burden by showing that the protected activity “was a contributing factor in the unfavorable personnel action…”

If the employee meets that burden, then the employer can only prevail if they can show “by clear and convincing evidence that the employer would have taken the same unfavorable personnel action in the absence of that behavior.” Here, the Court was tasked with deciding whether an employee must prove that their employer acted with a “retaliatory intent” as part of their burden or whether the employer bears the burden of proving a lack of “retaliatory intent” as part of their affirmative defense. In a decision issued on February 8, 2024, the Court held that a whistleblower seeking to invoke SOX protections must prove that their protected activity was a contributing factor in the employer’s unfavorable personnel action, but need not prove that the employer acted with “retaliatory intent.”

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.

Adrienne Wood

Jackson Lewis P.C.

Adrienne Wood is an associate at Jackson Lewis P.C. in New Orleans, Louisiana. Adrienne represents employers in all areas of labor and employment and civil litigation.