There is a common misconception about the U.S. Supreme Court that all cases that it rules on are created equal.
They’re not. Some take on more significance than others.
Case in point: Lewis v. City of Chicago, which was argued yesterday (transcript available here). I’ve previously discussed the case in an earlier post.
The SCOTUSBlog, as usual, has the details about what the case is about:
At issue is whether the 300-day statute of limitations restricting disparate impact challenges brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is triggered every time an employer makes an employment decision based on results from an impermissible employment examination or instead begins to run only when the test results are first announced.
Now, according to the WSJ Law Blog, it’s possible that the court could expand its decision to address, what one attorney called "The flip side of Ricci [v. DeStefano" — the firefighter discrimination case against the City of New Haven decided last year.
But a review of the transcript of yesterday’s oral argument seems to suggest that a more narrow ruling on when certain disparate impact claims can be brought is likely to be the outcome. There’s lots of discussion about the policy behind statute of limitations and the language of Title VII itself.
What would that mean for employers? Probably not much. An expanded statute of limitations would just create some more headaches more employers and more requirements for record-keeping. But I have a hard time thinking that the Court would be amenable to a open-ended time limitation. A more restricted reading of the statute wouldn’t change much for employers either.
So, while the the U.S. Supreme Court considers the case (a decision is expected before June), let’s wait and see whether this case will truly be of significance for employers. Or whether it just becomes the topic for academics to discuss in law journals.