All too often, Supreme Court nominations and final decisions are viewed as national issues, impacting large scale issues in our country. While that’s true, the impact of these decisions trickle down to the local level, leaving an indelible imprint on labor, employment, and consumer law in Kentucky.
The Trump administration’s current nominee to replace Justice Ginsburg, Amy Coney Barrett, has a history of ignoring the rights of the employee in favor of the bottom line of the corporation. During the course of her confirmation hearings, Barrett defended an earlier decision in which she held that a “plaintiff being called the N-word by a former supervisor was not sufficient…to support a claim of a racially-based hostile work environment.” And, in a case before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett determined that “age discrimination protections for employees don’t apply to job applicants.” These instances, along with her endorsement from the extremist Federalist Society, make it obvious that Barrett would be sympathetic to the type of major corporate interests that we work to defend our clients against.
The past of these ever-important nominees is a good indicator of the kind of future employment decisions our communities can expect. In the October 2018-2019 term, the Supreme Court issued a number of major decisions that impact small business owners across Kentucky. In April 2019, a decision authored by Justice Ginsberg concluded that all state offices should be considered employers, regardless of the number of employees, and therefore must adhere to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. This decision specifically called out state levels of government, immediately impacting the operations of at least 580 unique agencies in Kentucky alone. The Supreme Court also helps to determine which legislation applies in specific areas, as it did in Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton, another 2019 decision. The court held that federal minimum wage laws applied to a specific region of California, while state law only served to fill in the gaps. This decision immediately affected the paychecks of hundreds of employees and will continue to do so for potential decades to come.
While the Supreme Court may be more than 600 miles away from us here in Louisville, the decisions the justices make on a daily basis have immediate and long term consequences on the work our team does and on the everyday employment of our clients and community. The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is a worst case scenario for laborers and marginalized groups, but even in that dire situation, our team will not stop fighting to protect employees, consumers, unions, and the rest of our clients that make up the heart of middle America.