Supreme Court Takes Up Pregnancy Discrimination, More

Supreme Court Takes Up Pregnancy Discrimination, More Photo: Carmen Shields via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday put final touches on the October 2013 term by adding eight cases to next term’s docket that raise issues including pregnancy discrimination, religious speech and false-claims actions during wartime.

The justices also used their last orders list to dispose of cases they had been holding pending decisions in argued cases involving the same questions. The court vacated lower court rulings in three cases related to their landmark ruling Monday in Burrell v. Hobby Lobby, the challenge to the contraceptive coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act; and two cases pressing challenges to the recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board which the justices resolved in NLRB v. Noel Canning.

All of the cases go back to the lower courts for review in light of the justices’ rulings.

The pregnancy-discrimination case granted review is Young v. United Postal Service. Peggy Young was a driver and was required to be able to lift, push or pull items weighing 70 pounds. After becoming pregnant, she sought light duty assignments and was told they were not available to employees with pregnancy-related limitations—only to employees injured on the job or eligible for accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Young claims United Parcel Service Inc. violated her rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and asks the high court to reverse her defeat in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Obama administration had urged the court to deny review.

In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Pastor Clyde Reed of the Good News Community Church is challenging a Gilbert, Ariz., ordinance that imposes stricter time limits on the display of temporary church signs than on the display of other temporary noncommercial signs.

Under Gilbert’s ordinance, Reed’s counsel writes, political signs can be up to 32 square feet, displayed for many months, and unlimited in number. An ideological sign can be up to 20 square feet, displayed indefinitely, and unlimited in number. The church’s signs can only be six square feet, may be displayed for no more than 14 hours, and are limited to four per property.

The ordinance, Reed charges, violates the First Amendment. He is asking the justices to reverse a 2-1 panel ruling of the Ninth Circuit.

The False Claims Act case, Kellogg Brown & Root Services v. United States ex rel. Benjamin Carter, arises out of the armed conflict in Iraq, where Kellogg provided logistical services to the U.S. military. In 2006, Carter brought a False Claims Act suit alleging Kellogg had fraudulently billed the government for work in Iraq.

The questions before the high court involve the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act and whether it applies to a civil fraud claim brought by a private person under the False Claims Act. The justices also will examine the “first-to-file” provision of the False Claims Act.

Other cases added to the docket are:

  • Oneok Inc. v. Lear Jet Inc.: preemption under the Natural Gas Act.
  • Alabama Dept. of Revenue v. CSX Transportation: unlawful tax discrimination against a rail carrier.
  • B&B Hardware v. Hargis Industries: relitigation of a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s finding of a likelihood of confusion.
  • Wellness International Network v. Sharif: bankruptcy courts’ power to enter final orders based on litigant consent.
  • Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl: the Tax Injunction Act and federal court jurisdiction over a suit by nontaxpayers.

Contact Marcia Coyle at mcoyle@alm.com.

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