These are just two of over 40 lawsuits brought by bosses at for-profit companies seeking to impose their religious beliefs on their employees and deny them a critical health benefit. These cases raise big questions, like whether a for-profit corporation is a “person” capable of exercising religious belief and whether requiring a company’s health plan to cover birth control amounts to a “substantial burden” on religious exercise. Read more »
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a devastating ruling Tuesday in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, refusing to block a law that is forcing one-third of Texas’ abortion clinics to stop offering vital services.
Back in July of 2013, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law H.B. 2, which, among other things, requires abortion providers to obtain unnecessary admitting privileges at local hospitals. Almost immediately, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union joined forces with a local Texas firm and filed a lawsuit on behalf of more than a dozen Texas health care providers and their patients.
The district court judge found the restriction both unconstitutional and unnecessary and prevented the restriction from going into effect. His ruling was a clear victory for Texas families, yet was almost immediately reversed by a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided that decreasing the number of physicians available to perform abortions and increasing the cost of abortions was not an “undue burden” on the women of Texas, and allowed the law to remain in effect while the matter is fully litigated in the courts. Read more »
Early Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the case of Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. At issue in Cline was an Oklahoma law which effectively bans a woman’s ability to terminate an early pregnancy through the use of medication abortion. Medication abortion is both safe and legal – and has been since its FDA approval over a decade ago. For a number of women, it is also the preferred method of abortion. One in four women who have an early abortion decides on this method. Not only is medication abortion safe and legal, it is also protects women’s privacy by allowing them to complete the abortion in the comfort of their own homes rather than in a medical office.
Because the scope of the law was somewhat ambiguous, there was a question as to whether or not the statute truly bans medication abortion. Last December, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a decision on the law. Without addressing the law’s scope, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said that the law was an impermissible restriction on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion and therefore violated the U.S. Constitution. In an effort to keep up the fight, Oklahoma appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Read more »
This afternoon I’m headed to the Lincoln Memorial for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the March on Washington. Today’s event is both a commemoration and call to action. Thousands are gathering to remember the 1963 March and to outline the remaining civil rights agenda. Read more »
August 26th marks Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment prohibiting U.S. citizens from being denied the right to vote on account of sex. The 19th amendment is widely known for giving women the right to vote. Read more »
On July 30, George Miller, the senior Democratic member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, introduced the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, or POWADA, which would restore vital civil rights protections for older workers by reversing the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Gross v. FBL Financial. POWADA reestablishes that once a victim shows discrimination was a “motivating factor” behind a decision, the burden is properly on the employer to show it complied with the law.
The Gross decision made it nearly impossible to prove age discrimination by requiring that victims prove that age was not only a factor in an employer’s decision but was the decisive factor (this is also known as “but-for causation” meaning that but-for the age discrimination, the employer would have made a different decision). The Gross decision has had wide-reaching effects: just this year, the Supreme Court applied the higher standard of proof to claims of retaliation in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar (applying but-for causation test to claims of retaliation under Title VII), and, as in Gross, expressed skepticism at the intelligence of jurors and lower court judges in Vance v. Ball State University (restricting the definition of ‘supervisor’ under Title VII). Read more »
You may have missed it in the flurry of news-making by the Supreme Court this week, but on Monday, five of the Justices gave early Christmas presents to defendants accused of employment discrimination, when the Court handed down important decisions in two Title VII cases: Vance v. Ball State University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar. In both Vance and Nassar, the 5-4 decisions ignored the realities of the workplace and the ways in which employment discrimination and harassment play out every day. Placing new obstacles in the path of workers seeking to vindicate their rights, the Court set aside the longstanding interpretations of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the agency charged with enforcing Title VII), and closed out a term in which the Court repeatedly limited the ability of individuals to challenge the actions of powerful corporations.
Justice Alito wrote the Vance decision. Prior cases have held that when a plaintiff shows she was sexually harassed, or racially harassed, or harassed on some other unlawful basis by a supervisor, her employer is liable, unless the employer can prove that the plaintiff unreasonably failed to take advantage of a process that the employer provided for addressing harassment. An employer is only liable for harassment by a co-worker, however, when a plaintiff can show that the employer was negligent in controlling working conditions — a far tougher standard. Vance posed the question of who is a supervisor: Is it only someone who has the authority to hire, fire, or take other tangible employment actions? Or is it anyone who oversees and directs the plaintiff’s work on a day-to-day basis? Read more »
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's historic ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the Court upheld the constitutionality of two major provisions of the ACA: the individual mandate and the Medicaid eligibility expansion. However, the Court made one very significant change to the terms of the Medicaid provision: It held that the federal government could not condition a state's current federal Medicaid funding on participation in the coverage expansion, thereby giving states the choice to opt-out of covering more people through Medicaid.
Today, Medicaid programs in all states cover low-income individuals with disabilities, seniors, children, pregnant women, and parents. But federal money provided through the ACA will enable states to reach people younger than 65 whose income is below 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline ($15,856 annually for an individual; $26, 951 for a family of three in 2012).
For the first time, low-income childless adults will have access to Medicaid coverage in many states.
Today, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which provided that only a marriage between a man and woman would be recognized under federal law. The Court found that this provision of DOMA violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. This decision is historic in its recognition that the Constitution provides important protection against discrimination against same-sex relationships.