Supreme Court Docket Light on Employment Law

Article excerpt

STEALTH CASES' TO WATCH

Recent Supreme Court terms have featured profound decisions involving pay discrimination, retaliation and the use of employment tests. But few employment law cases were on the docket when the court's new term opened earlier this month.

"They are conspicuously absent," says Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center.

The courts eventual decisions may not be high profile, but they could still be felt by HR professionals.

"There are some stealth cases in there that bear watching," says Edward Brill, a partner at Proskauer Rose in New York. "And some of them could have farreaching impact."

For instance, the court, whose ses- sion opened October 5, will continue to shape its philosophy toward labor arbi- tration. Last year, in 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, it ruled 5-4 that arbitration pro- visions of collective bargaining agree- ments can prevent individuals from pur- suing age discrimination suits in court.

During this term, one case - Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers - raises the question of whether a court can set aside an arbitration award if due process is not followed.

"That would open up a pretty significant hole in the finality of arbitration decisions," says Peter Boyer, a partner at McCarter & English in Philadelphia.

Another case - Granite Rock Co. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters centers on whether a federal court can determine that an arbitration agreement exists. A second question is whether the court's jurisdiction extends beyond parties signing a contract to include an international union that wasn't directly involved in the negotiation. …

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