Supreme Court Begins New Term with Few Employment Cases

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Supreme Court of the United States will begin its new term on October 3rd with a quiet slate of cases for employers. Among the few employment-related cases set for review include one involving whether the acting general counsel of the NLRB was validly appointed by President Obama under a federal vacancy statute (NLRB v. SW General, Inc.) and another involving the judicial standard of review for enforcing EEOC investigative subpoenas (McLane v. EEOC). Although these cases are not likely to set employers’ hearts afire, it is possible that the Court will add to its docket as it considers other pending petitions for review.

In terms of its composition, the Supreme Court will begin its new term as it ended its last one: with a vacancy. Although President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last March to replace Justice Scalia, the Senate has not acted on the nomination. As a result, the eight-member Court continues to risk deadlocking in some cases, as it did last term when considering the constitutionality of compulsory union dues in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. In that case – just as it does whenever it deadlocks – the Court affirmed the judgment below, which had held that mandatory “fair share” fees did not violate public employees’ First Amendment rights.

Whether the Court’s composition has played a role in its selection of cases this term is an open question. In this election year, it is also a question that is likely to persist until after November.