Roberts/Alito Court Begins Dismantling Workers’ Rights at the National Level

For those who have watched the dismantling of worker and injured persons rights by the Michigan Supreme Court over the last decade, the first term of the United States Supreme Court in the Roberts/Alito era bears a striking resemblance to what we have already experienced in Michigan. A case in point was the decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire case, 127 S. Ct. 2162 (May 29 2007). There the Supreme Court, Justice Alito writing, decided to limit the continuing violations rule in civil rights cases. The plaintiff in Ledbetter had been discriminated in the past by a supervisor. The supervisor, rejected for sexual favors, wrote sub-par evaluations of the plaintiff. She found out years later she was making less money than the other male supervisors because of this poor evaluation. Because she was affected every pay check, the federal district court allowed the case to proceed to trial even though no complaint was filed on the original discrimination during the 180/300 day filing period. A jury found for the plaintiff.

The Supreme Court held that plaintiff’s case was time barred and ordered the case dismissed. The Court made clear that each violation must be challenged during the 180/300 day EEOC filing period. If it is not, the effects are allowed to continue, apparently to infinity. The import is that persons are now forced to file or abandon charges that sometimes were left alone pending further development of the true impact on the employee’s career. The continuing violation exception to the filing deadline has been significantly curtailed.

This decision shows that the Court’s ultra conservative block will attack labor whenever it can. Justice Ginsburg dissenting stated: “The Court’s approbation of these consequences is totally at odds with the robust protection against workplace discrimination Congress intended Title VII to secure.” Unfortunately, Justice Ginsburg is not only correct but prophetic. Future years will show that one of the agendas of the Roberts/Alito Court is to attack labor and diminish the rights of working Americans. This case is just one of the first steps.

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