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Tuesday
Oct052010

Supreme Court Preview


At 10:00 a.m. EDT yesterday morning, the first Monday in October, the U.S. Supreme Court met to begin its new term. A number of cases that will affect the way you do business will be decided. The issues involved are discussed below.

As you may recall from your high school civics class, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court get to pick which cases they choose to hear. Over 50 cases are currently on the docket. Another 20 to 30 cases may be added throughout the term.

Cases before the Supreme Court can involve a number of different legal issues. The implications of these decisions can be far reaching. For that reason, some of the issues described below refer to some of the same cases.

Preemption - When do federal laws take priority over state laws? That is the question of preemption. There are currently four preemption cases on the docket. The court's decisions will resolve the matters in disputes. They will also likely influence many other areas where states and the federal government both make laws. In Oregon, these decisions may very well govern the enforceability of the state’s Employer Gag Rule.

Employment - A number of cases awaiting Supreme Court review involve employment issues. For example, is a state's "corporate death penalty" for employers hiring undocumented workers enforceable? Also, does an employee's verbal, rather than written, complaint trigger the anti-retaliation protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act? This ruling may suggest how businesses and employers should handle all types of verbal comments, notices and complaints.

When employees engage in protected activities (such as a discrimination complaint), employers must be cautious when making employment decisions affecting that employee. What about those closely associated with the employee (such as a fiance)? Are they also protected?

When an employer, without discriminatory motive, makes an employment decision based on information from a biased supervisor, is the employer liable for discrimination?

Product Liabilities - Can a manufacturer be sued in a state court for an alleged design defect when the design was specifically allowed by federal regulations?

Employee Privacy - Can the government require federal contractors to obtain detailed personal information on their employees and applicants?

Arbitration - Can consumer contracts require that disputes be resolved through individual arbitration rather than class-action proceedings?

Securities - Can an advisor be liable for the false statements of a client? In another case, the Court is presented with the question of whether information that can have an adverse impact on a corporation's stock value must be "statistically significant" before plaintiffs can bring a claim for failing to disclose that information.

Counterfeit Goods - Can a retailer be held liable for copyright infringement for reselling goods obtained from third-party vendors?

Corporate Privacy - Does the Freedom of Information Act's personal privacy exemption, preventing disclosure of certain records, apply to corporations?

Foreign Companies - Do state courts have jurisdiction over companies that introduce products into the "stream of commerce" that injure a resident of the state?

 

LegalBriefs will keep you posted as these and other business related cases make their way through the Supreme Court this term.

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