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High Court rules: Class actions, contraceptives

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The U.S. Supreme Court on May 16 struck a minor blow against class-action lawsuits and took a pass on a case that could have dealt a blow to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Both cases could have had a substantial effect on some HR operations.

In Spokeo v. Robins, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 to reverse a lower court ruling in favor of a man who said his job search prospects had been harmed because the data-mining website Spokeo implied that he was rich. The plaintiff sued on behalf of others who were potentially harmed by similar errors.

The question before the court: Whether the plaintiff had standing to sue over a technical violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act even though he could not prove any harm.

The Supreme Court kicked the case back to the 9th Circuit on a technicality, denying class-action advocates a hoped-for victory.

The ACA decision—in Zubik v. Burwell—was similarly inconclusive, but unanimously so. The justices voted 8-0 to decline to decide whether religious employers could refuse to provide free contraceptives through their health plans, as the ACA requires. Several employers had argued that even informing the government that they would not provide contraceptives violated their religious beliefs.

The court punted, sending several related cases back to lower courts, which have mostly endorsed Obama administration efforts to independently provide contraceptives to employees.

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