Supreme Court

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Not all employment law cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court matter are of equal significance and importance to employers.

What? How can that be, you say? It’s the SUPREME COURT!  Isn’t everything that they say important?

Well, sort of.

The truth is that sometimes the court decides thick procedural issues disguised as an employment law case.  But from a practical matter, how the court rules in these cases probably isn’t going to affect how most employers run their businesses. 

One case that is likely to be decided this year in just such a fashion is Genesis Healthcare Corp v. Symczyk, which was argued earlier this month.   Jon Hyman, over at the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, sums up the principle at issue here:

Let’s say an employee sues you, claiming that you withheld certain wages owed under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition to defending the lawsuit, you make her what is called an “offer of judgment” to make her whole for all wages she claims she is owed (including any liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees). Does the offer render her lawsuit—that she not only brought on her own behalf, but also sought on behalf of a class of similarly situated co-workers—moot? Alternatively, does the fact that she sought relief on behalf of others keep her lawsuit alive, despite the fact that she no longer has any personal skin in the game? 

I have a difficult time believing this case is going to impact more than just a few wage & hour cases.  Most employment law cases never get an offer of judgment made on them and typically involve more than one person.  While it may impact the tactics in class actions, the overwhelming majority of employers will never have to deal with a class action ever.

Put another way, this case is not likely to have any impact on how employers manage their workforce on a day-to-day basis.

So, if you like reading about the U.S. Supreme Court and the intracacies of procedures, this case should be right up your alley. For most employers though, it’s a reminder that not all employment law cases are of equal importance.