October 23, 2012

Case Highlights 2005-2006 Term

Following are case highlights for the topic areas of Title VII. To access other case highlights for the 2005-2006 Term or previous terms, or to return to the main Case Highlights page, use the Topic Area menu to the right.


Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp.
Docket No. 04-944
Reversed and Remanded: The Fifth Circuit

Argued: January 11, 2006
Decided: February 22, 2006
For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 176

Does Title VII's statutory definition of an employer as a person having 15 or more employees limit the federal court's subject matter jurisdiction?

No. The Court held that the employee-numerosity requirement does not limit the federal court's subject matter jurisdiction; rather, it relates to the substantive adequacy of the plaintiff's claim, and therefore can not be raised defensively after the close of trial on the merits.

From the opinion by Justice Ginsburg (for a unanimous Court):

Given the "unfair[ness]" and "waste of judicial resources" … entailed in tying the employee-numerosity requirement to subject-matter jurisdiction, we think it the sounder course … to leave the ball in Congress' court. If the Legislature clearly states that a threshold limitation on a statute's scope shall count as jurisdictional, then courts and litigants will be duly instructed and will not be left to wrestle with the issue. … But when Congress does not rank a statutory limitation on coverage as jurisdictional, courts should treat the restriction as nonjurisdictional in character. Applying that readily administrable bright line to this case, we hold that the threshold number of employees for application of Title VII is an element of a plaintiff's claim for relief, not a jurisdictional issue.

Taking no part in the consideration or decision of the case: Justice Alito

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