Supreme Court Issues Decisions that Change Employment Law Landscape

by Benesch

The U.S. Supreme Court wrapped up its 2013 session by handing down three decisions that may significantly affect recent controversial rulings by the National Labor Relations Board, Affordable Care Act mandates on employer birth control coverage and union fees imposed on certain government employees.


In National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, the Court invalidated President Barack Obama’s recess appointments in 2012 to the five-member Board, an administrative agency that decides whether an employer engaged in unfair labor practices.  The Court held the President’s appointment of three members to the Board was unconstitutional because the Senate, which normally advises and consents on such appointments, was not in a sufficiently long enough recess to invoke the Recess Appointments Clause of the Constitution. 

The Noel Canning decision means that the NLRB did not have a quorum when it decided more than four hundreds labor cases between January 2012 and August 2013.  This includes a number of controversial cases in which the Board either modified or overruled past Board precedent on social media policies, employer confidentiality rules, off-duty employee access rules, employer withholding obligations, and discipline policies. The parties in those case may request a review by the current board, which has a full contingent of five members all confirmed by the Senate.  Because the Board has a 3-2 Democratic majority, it is likely that many of the previous orders will be confirmed but some may not.  It also means that many decisions based on these NLRB cases may be questionable.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Court held that an Affordable Care Act regulation requiring for-profit companies to offer birth control coverage to their employees violates a federal law that protects religious freedom.  The Court, in a 5-4 vote, held that Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 applies to family-owned companies like Hobby Lobby, which has a sincere Christian belief that life begins at conception and that the regulation would violate their religion by facilitating access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after conception. 

The Court held that the contraceptive requirement ? to furnish “preventive care and screenings” for women without “any cost sharing requirements” with employees ? placed a substantial burden on those companies’ religious liberties and the government had not chosen the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, the most demanding test in constitutional law.  Had the three closely held corporations involved in the case lost, they could have been subject to more than $500 million in penalties collectively for refusing to provide contraceptive coverage or more than $25 million in penalties collectively if they dropped health care coverage altogether.

Illinois Home Health Care Workers

In Harris v. Quinn, the Court held that partial public employees do not have to pay fees to unions representing them if they do not want to join the union.  But the Court declined to strike down a decades-old precedent that required many full-fledged public sector workers to pay union fees. 

The case was brought by eight non-union home health care workers in Illinois who objected to paying union fees for things like collective bargaining activities under an agreement the state entered into with the union.  The Court found that the home health care workers are different that full-fledged public employees.  While paid through state Medicaid,  they are almost entirely answerable to the residents they care for, do not enjoy most of the rights and benefits that other state employees do, and are not indemnified by the state for claims against them during employment. The Court noted that extending the requirement of full-fledged public workers to pay union dues to partial public employees “would invite problems” because there would be no clear line on which workers would have to pay dues and which would not.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Benesch | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


Benesch on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.