Supreme Court outlook: All quiet on employment-law front

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in Employee Benefits Program,FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources

In its 2001-02 term, which ended in June, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a whirlwind of employment-law decisions.

But as the high court plans to open its 2002-03 term on Oct. 7, it has surprisingly few employment-law cases on its initial docket.

So far, the court has agreed to hear arguments in a case to decide whether the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to state employers. Nevada officials have challenged the law, saying the 11th Amendment gives states a "sovereign immunity" that shields it from FMLA violations. (Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, No. 01-1368)

During the term, the court is likely to select other cases for review. Expect the following two cases to be prime candidates:

1. Pay discrimination. This case concerns a 10th Circuit decision that allowed each paycheck to serve as an actionable event when determining the statute of limitation for filing Title VII discrimination claims. (General Motors Corp. v. Goodwin, No. 01-1479)

2. ERISA. This issues involves a pair of 2nd Circuit decisions on a hot-button issue that expanded the circumstances in which ERISA welfare plan benefits will be deemed vested and set in stone, incapable of modification regardless of cost hikes to employers. (Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield v. Byrnes; Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield v. Alicea, No. 01-1710)

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