Monday, June 27, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds University of Texas’s Race-Conscious Admissions Program

In a 4-3 decision Thursday, the Supreme Court affirmed that a race-conscious admissions program used by the University of Texas is legal under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment—at least, as that program was implemented in 2008 when UT rejected Abigail Fisher’s college application. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas (Fisher II) was far from an enthusiastic defense of the need for race-conscious admissions programs at public universities, but it affirmed the status quo in reiterating the narrow range of circumstances in which such programs are constitutionally permissible. For that reason, advocates for racial justice can mark Fisher in the win column.

Fisher first came before the Court during the October 2012 term (Fisher I), at which point Ms. Fisher had already graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in finance. The Court set forth the principles the UT admissions program needed to satisfy under the 14th Amendment (discussed below), said that Fifth Circuit had failed to apply those principles, and sent the case back for the Fifth Circuit to reconsider.

The Supreme Court first addressed the constitutionality of affirmative action in higher education when it struck down a quota system for applications to the University of California Medical School at Davis in 1978. However, that case, Regents of University of California v. Bakke, also established that affirmative action would be constitutionally permissible, at least in some circumstances. The Court did not clearly establish the applicable level of scrutiny until the mid-1990s, when the Rehnquist Court held that all racial classifications—without regard to whether those classifications were intended to hinder or help people of color—would be subject to the highest level of scrutiny (strict scrutiny) under the Equal Protection Clause. In dissent, Justice Stevens wryly chided the majority as unable to tell “the difference between a ‘No Trespassing’ sign and a welcome mat.”

More recently, the Court considered two race-based admissions programs at the University of Michigan in 2003. The Court (in two opinions by Justice O’Connor) struck down the undergraduate school’s use of a point system to boost applications from people of color while it upheld the Law School’s use of race as a “plus factor” as part of a flexible assessment of other “soft variables.” Those decisions also established “attaining a diverse student body”—for the benefit of all students—as the only permissible basis for an affirmative action program. An affirmative action program that sought to remedy the effects of past discrimination, for example, would not pass constitutional muster. These Michigan cases established the needle which UT needed to thread if it wanted to promote diversity at its flagship university while satisfying strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause.

UT thus developed an intriguing strategy to diversify its student body, by taking advantage of widespread racial segregation in the state’s public schools: it would offer admission to all students who placed in the top 10% of their high school class, up to 75% of the class. UT would then admit the remaining 25% according to an individualized inquiry which would consider race as one factor amongst many, much like the Michigan Law School plan approved by the Court. In alleging that her rejection from UT was discriminatory, Ms. Fisher challenged only the latter aspect of the admissions program (as she did not place in the top 10% of her high school class).

In Fisher I, Justice Kennedy described three controlling principles to assess the constitutionality of a public university’s race-conscious admissions program. First, such a program would have to satisfy strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause (that is, it must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest, and diversity qualifies as such an interest). Second, courts should defer to a university’s academic judgment, accompanied by reasoned explanation, that a diverse student body would promote its educational goals. Third, the university bears the burden of proving that a race-neutral approach would not accomplish the same goals.

In Fisher II, Justice Kennedy determined that UT had met its burden with respect to all three principles. In large part, Kennedy appears to have been persuaded by the comprehensiveness of the data produced by UT in support of its need to go beyond the Top 10% program to achieve the educational benefits of a diverse student body, the modesty of the program (using race as “but a ‘factor of a factor of a factor’ in the holistic-review calculus”), and a desire to defer to UT’s academic judgment.

Justice Kennedy’s Fisher II opinion (much like his Fisher I opinion) is far from a model of clarity. Justice Kennedy went to great lengths to explain that UT’s admissions program was one-of-a-kind, that the Court’s ruling was meant only to capture a moment in time, and that the opinion had “limit[ed] value for prospective guidance.” Justice Kennedy referred to UT’s program as unique (he used the Latin), although it is unclear why he thinks other states will not adopt a similar approach now that the Court has given its seal of approval—Texas is not unique in its de facto racially segregated public schools. He also noted that the opinion did not intend to approve of UT’s admissions program today or in the future, explaining that UT should continually assess the need for a race-conscious admissions policy.

In doing so, he also fell prey to the same dubious assumption as Justice O’Connor in the Michigan cases: that racism in the United States will soon become a distant memory (Justice O’Connor stated that affirmative action would cease to be necessary by 2028). This premise was misleading, even before a major U.S. political party nominated an overtly racist demagogue as its standard bearer.

Still, Justice Kennedy should be commended for his evolution on affirmative action. He voted to strike down the use of race as a plus factor in the Michigan Law School case less than 15 years ago, and less than 10 years ago joined the majority in striking down Seattle’s use of race in school assignments to further Seattle’s goal of racially integrated public schools. In fact, Justice Kennedy has never before affirmed an affirmative action program. Particularly before the death of Justice Scalia, many commentators suspected that Fisher II would effectively end race-conscious admissions at public universities, and deny countless students of color a fair shake in the application process. Fisher II instead preserved the status quo, for which the four justices in the majority should be applauded.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Arbitration Class Action Waivers Challenged: Seventh Circuit Sides with The National Labor Relations Board on D.R. Horton, in Lewis V. Epic Systems

On May 26, 2016, in Lewis v. Epic Systems Corp., No. 15-2997, 2016 WL 3029464 (7th Cir. May 26, 2016), the Seventh Circuit, fueling a circuit split, sided in favor of the National Labor Relations Board (“the Board”) position in D.R. Horton, Inc., 357 NLRB No. 184 (2012), holding that employers violate Section 7 of National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by requiring employees covered by the Act to waive, as a condition of their employment, participation in class or collective actions.  Under Section 7 of the NLRA, employers are prohibited from interfering with employees’ right “to engage in…concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

In Epic Systems, Lewis, a technical writer, filed a suit in federal court in Wisconsin on behalf of himself and other technical writers alleging that his employer – Epic Systems Corporation – had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by misclassifying workers as exempt and depriving them of overtime.  In response, Epic-Systems moved to dismiss Lewis’s claim and compel individual arbitration because he had signed an arbitration agreement that waived his “right to participate in or receive money or any other relief from any class, collective, or representative proceeding.”  Lewis, however, responded that the agreement’s class and collective action waiver was unenforceable because it interfered with his right to engage in concerted activities under Section 7 of the NLRA.  The district court agreed with Lewis’s arguments and the Seventh Circuit affirmed.

Chief Judge Diane Wood explains in Epic Systems that “there is ‘no doubt that illegal promises will not be enforced in cases controlled by the federal law.’”  Epic Sys. Corp., 2016 WL 3029464, at *6 (quoting Kaiser Steel Corp. v. Mullins, 455 U.S. 72, 77 (1982)).  As reasoned in D.R. Horton, Section 7 grants employees the substantive right to act “concertedly for mutual aid or protection” and mandatory arbitration agreements that bar an employee’s ability to bring or join class or collective workplace claims restrict this substantive right. 

D.R. Horton adversaries claim that the Board and now the Seventh Circuit have expressly rejected the Supreme Court’s clear instructions on how to interpret the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which says that absent some specific “contrary congressional command” as to whether a claim can be arbitrated, the FAA “requires the arbitration agreement to be enforced according to its terms.”  CompuCredit Corp. v. Greenwood, 132 S.Ct. 665, 673 (2012).  However, as Chief Judge Wood explains in Epic Systems, “[b]efore we rush to decide whether one statute eclipses another, we must stop to see if the two statutes conflict at all.”  Epic Sys. Corp., 2016 WL 3029464, at *5.

The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that “when two statutes are capable of co-existence ... it is the duty of the courts, absent a clearly expressed congressional intention to the contrary, to regard each as effective.”  Vimar Seguros y Reaseguros, S.A. v. M/V Sky Reefer, 515 U.S. 528, 533 (1995); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Epstein, 516 U.S. 367, 381 (1996) (implied repeal should be found only when there is an “‘irreconcilable conflict’ between the two federal statutes at issue”) (quoting Kremer v. Chem. Const. Corp., 456 U.S. 461, 468 (1982)).  Epic Systems elucidates that the FAA and NLRA are reconcilable by way of the FAA’s savings clause, which provides that if “the provision at issue is unlawful under Section 7 of the NLRA, it is illegal, and meets the criteria of the FAA’s savings clause for non-enforcement,” i.e., that an arbitration agreement’s conflict with federal law is grounds for invalidation.  Epic Sys., 2016 WL 3029464, at *6.  When Congress drafted the FAA, it anticipated that conflicts could arise between it and other Federal laws, and by including the savings clause, it created a means of harmonizing the FAA with laws such as the NLRA. 

The Seventh Circuit’s decision splits with last year’s Murphy Oil USA, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., 808 F.3d 1013 (5th Cir. 2015), in which the Fifth Circuit held the exact opposite, ruling that the employer did not commit unfair labor practices by requiring employees to sign its arbitration agreement or seeking to enforce that agreement in federal district court.  The Fifth Circuit rejected the Board’s position, but the Court did not profess to have the last word on the matter.  The Fifth Circuit wrote, “[a]n administrative agency’s need to acquiesce to an earlier circuit court decision when deciding similar issues in later cases will be affected by whether the new decision will be reviewed in that same circuit…We do not celebrate the Board's failure to follow our D.R. Horton reasoning, but neither do we condemn its nonacquiescence.”  Murphy Oil, 808 F.3d at 1018 (referencing Samuel Estreicher & Richard L. Revesz, Nonacquiescence by Federal Administrative Agencies, 98 YALE L.J. 679, 735–43 (1989)). 

The circuit split on the enforceability of class action waivers has the legal community reeling.  While D.R. Horton, Epic Systems, and the present judicial climate have emboldened the plaintiffs’-side employment law bar nationwide, the debate continues to arouse long-held sentiments that workers’ rights should be subjugated in the name of commerce and contractual rights.  The Supreme Court will likely have to address the conflict presented in D.R. Horton, Murphy Oil, and Epic Systems, and people in the labor and employment law community are on the edge waiting to hear who ends up in the seat formerly held by Justice Antonin Scalia.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Millions of Salaried Workers Are Newly Eligible For Overtime, Thanks to an Updated Department of Labor Rule

Today the Department of Labor issued a new rule that updates federal overtime regulations and dramatically increases the number of salaried workers entitled to overtime pay. The final rule will go into effect on December 1, 2016. At that time, an estimated 4.2 million additional workers will automatically be eligible for overtime compensation, according to the Department.

The Fair Labor Standard Act entitles certain white-collar employees to overtime pay. Previously, only workers earning up to $23,660 were entitled to overtime compensation, a static amount set in 2004. Under the new rule, most salaried workers who earn up to $47,476 annually must receive time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked in excess of 40 per week. That amount is pegged to the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South, and will automatically update every three years, based on the latest wage growth data. Thus, the cutoff for overtime eligibility is expected to increase every three years.

The new rule also increases the annual compensation requirements for highly compensated employees.

It remains to be seen how employers will respond to the new rule. However, many employee advocates believe the new rule will result in higher earnings, or at least more free time, for middle class workers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Another Good Day for Class Actions before the Eight-Member Supreme Court

In a continuation of what is starting to look like a trend before the ideologically split, eight-member Supreme Court, on Monday morning a majority of the Justices signed on to a narrow procedural ruling in Spokeo v. Robins, which had the practical effect of preserving consumer class actions based on statutory, non-pocketbook injuries. Had the Court ruled in favor of Spokeo, the ability of consumers to bring class action lawsuits for harms such as the privacy rights at stake in this case would have been severely limited.

Thomas Robins sued Spokeo, the self-described “people search engine,” under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), on behalf of a class of consumers, for publishing inaccurate reports concerning his age, marital status, education, and employment history. Mr. Robins alleged that the misinformation had negatively interfered with his job search efforts. The FCRA, an attempt by Congress to address widespread inaccuracies in consumer credit reporting and the significant challenges consumers face in trying to correct such information, requires that consumer reporting agencies take certain steps to ensure the accuracy of consumer data and grants injured consumers a right to sue for negligent or willful noncompliance with the Act.

The district court had granted Spokeo’s motion to dismiss on the basis that Robins lacked Constitutional standing to sue because he had not adequately pleaded an injury-in-fact. The injury-in-fact requirement demands that a plaintiff has suffered a harm that is both individualized and concrete. The Supreme Court has aggressively enforced this and other components of standing doctrine in the past three decades, making it more difficult for individuals to challenge corporate or government misconduct. For example, in an influential but extremely troubling 1984 decision, the Supreme Court held that the parents of African-American school children lacked standing to challenge the unlawful granting of tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools, because they lacked an injury-in-fact.

Mr. Robins appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which ruled in his favor, finding that he had satisfied the injury-in-fact requirement by alleging that Spokeo had violated his statutory rights granted by FCRA and that he had a personal (rather than collective) stake in the handling of his own credit information.

Prior to Justice Scalia’s death, Spokeo seemed destined to continue the efforts of the Court’s conservative majority to weaken the ability of employees and consumers (amongst others) to recover against corporations through class action lawsuits. The conservatives Justices’ previous successes in this realm include two infamous decisions handed down five years ago: AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (2011) 563 U.S. 333 (upholding class-action waivers in consumer arbitration agreements) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes (2011) 131 S. Ct. 2541 (de-certifying a nationwide class of female employees who relied on statistics to prove rampant sex discrimination). These decisions led to increasingly aggressive attempts by corporations to immunize themselves from class actions. Spokeo’s assertion that Mr. Robins lacked standing to sue Spokeo for violations of the FCRA reflected one such attempt, this time relying on the modern standing doctrine, described above, to strip consumers of an essential remedy for the widespread abuses in credit reporting.

However, without a fifth conservative vote, the high court instead sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit for further consideration of whether Mr. Robins’s injury was sufficiently concrete to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement. Justice Alito, writing for a six-Justice majority, expounded on the concreteness element and noted that standing requires something more than “a bare procedural violation” of a statute. As an example, Justice Alito hypothesized that the incorrect reporting of an individual’s zip code likely would not result in concrete harm. Justice Alito added that a risk of future concrete harm could also satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement.

Justice Ginsburg, in an opinion joined by Justice Sotomayor, dissented to opine that remand to the Ninth Circuit was unnecessary because Mr. Robins’ allegations met the concreteness requirement. Therefore, all eight Justices appeared to agree that Congress may confer standing by creating statutory rights and remedies, so long as the plaintiff bringing suit has suffered an individualized harm resulting from something more than a bare procedural violation of a statute.

This issue is likely to return before a nine-member Court, but by preserving the status quo with respect to standing and class actions, the result was a clear win for consumers, employees, and those who advocate on their behalf.

Monday, May 9, 2016


This post is dedicated to preserving core American values by defeating Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election.

America was founded 240 years ago on the notion that all are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights – the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ours is largely a nation of immigrants and has been since the thirteen colonies were established. We have fought, since the first settlers, and to the present day, for religious freedom. Our immigrants contributing to America’s greatness are as diverse as the people of the world – coming from every inhabited continent and country, every race, national origin, and creed.

Donald Trump has never held public office, fought for this country, or engaged in substantial public service of any kind, and is thus the least-qualified person ever to aspire to the presidency as a major party candidate. His best known public policy positions, which he rode to the likely Republican nomination, scapegoat immigrants and religious minorities. 

Trump has said that the children of undocumented immigrants should not be protected by the constitution (though most of his own kids were children of immigrants, Ivana Trump, who was Czech, and Melania Knauss, who was Slovenian)

Trump has said, "Day 1 of my presidency, they [illegal immigrants] are getting out and getting out fast." He has said that all immigrants in the U.S. illegally (11 million, approximately) should be deported, but has in the past said that only some should be deported, and has no plan for conducting such an operation, which experts says is impossible. He has advocated building a wall along the entire Mexican border, which Pope Francis decreed as un-Christian. Trump responded by calling the Pope a pawn of the Mexican government

Trump has also famously said that all Muslims should require special identification (like the Jews in Nazi Germany), and that Muslims should not be allowed to come to the United States at all (in violation of the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion), and called Brussels a "hellhole" while it was recovering from terrorist threats, because of its Muslim minority. Trump calls for surveillance of mosques in the U.S. 

We have never had a major party candidate like Trump in America, but other countries have, so we know that we must take Trump's bigoted positions seriously. Read, for example:

An unqualified demagogue like Trump, who openly espouses racist views as a basis for seeking the high and honorable position of U.S. President, mocks America and its bedrock values, and must be taken seriously, and stopped. 

It is of no consequence whether you or I are not Mexican or Muslim. A racist attack on one of us is an attack on all Americans. We recall the words of Martin Niemöller, who had the courage to speak out against Hitler as a Protestant pastor. He said:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

It is time for all patriotic Americans to speak out against Donald Trump.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

California Supreme Court Clarifies that Most Employers Must Provide Employees with Seats for Tasks that May Reasonably Performed While Sitting

On Monday, the California Supreme Court provided much-needed guidance on a little-known state regulation that requires employers to provide employees with “suitable seats” when reasonable. The Supreme Court’s opinion in Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. clarified that whether an employer must provide a seat depends on the individual tasks the employee regularly performs and whether any of those tasks may reasonably be performed while sitting, not whether the majority of tasks performed by the employee could be performed seated. It further clarified that employees who regularly work standing must be provided with a seat during breaks.

Despite the standing-desk trend amongst office workers, for workers who spend most of their shifts on their feet, sitting down for part of the workday reduces fatigue and promotes overall health. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the seating requirement thus forces employers to evaluate the physical conditions of their employees’ workspaces through the lens of safety and health.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had requested guidance from the California Supreme Court to resolve two cases which implicated the seating requirement: one involving cashiers at CVS Pharmacy and another involving tellers at JPMorgan Chase Bank. The requirement is contained within the Industrial Welfare Commission’s wage orders, which regulate wages, hours, and working conditions for various job categories. (It impacts most workers in California, with the exception of those regulated by wage orders covering agricultural, construction, drilling, logging, and mining jobs, which have different seating rules.)

The California Supreme Court first traced the history of the seating provision, which dates to a 1911 law requiring that female employees in the mercantile industry be allowed to sit during breaks. A few years later, the Industrial Welfare Commission incorporated seating requirements for women and children into the various wage orders, including a requirement that garment and laundering workers be permitted to work while sitting. Seating requirements evolved over the following decades, and became applicable to employees regardless of gender in the early 1970s. In its current form, the relevant seating provision states:

(A) All working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.
(B) When employees are not engaged in the active duties of their employment and the nature of the work requires standing, an adequate number of suitable seats shall be placed in reasonable proximity to the work area and employees shall be permitted to use such seats when it does not interfere with the performance of their duties.

In interpreting the seating requirement, the Court rejected the employers’ position that “the  nature of the work” language calls for a review of all tasks performed by an employee throughout the day to categorize work into “sitting jobs” and “standing jobs.” The Court explained: “There is no principled reason for denying an employee a seat when he spends a substantial part of his workday at a single location performing tasks that could reasonably be done while seated, merely because his job duties include other tasks that must be done standing.” However, the Court also rejected the employees’ argument that if a single job task could be performed sitting, a seat must be provided.

The Court was instead persuaded by guidance from the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement which cautioned that the all-or-nothing approach obscures what tasks a worker actually performs (and their duration) and ignores the central purpose of the wage orders to provide a minimum level of protection for workers. But the Court also noted that, contrary to the argument advanced by the employees, the reasonableness standard in the provision means that a seat likely need not be provided where seated tasks comprise very little of the workday.

The Court’s standard thus requires an examination of all relevant factors and a balancing of the employee’s need for a seat against the impact on the employer’s business. Relevant considerations would include whether tasks in a given location could be performed sitting, whether sitting would significantly interfere with other standing tasks, and the impact on overall job performance. The Court further explained that the inquiry is an objective one and an employer’s mere preference for standing work is irrelevant.

Finally, the Court explained that sections 14(A) and 14(B) are not mutually exclusive and that both may apply to the same employee during different parts of the workday. For instance, an employee who performs both seated and standing work may be entitled to a seat during breaks in addition to while performing seated tasks.

The Supreme Court’s guidance is significant because employees who suffer violations of the seating requirement may be able to file an action under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). PAGA provides a cause of action for workers to enforce Labor Code violations in court on behalf of themselves and other aggrieved employees. In the context of the seating requirement, employers who fail to provide seats when it is reasonable to do so could be on the hook for penalties starting at $100 for each aggrieved employee per pay period. See Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. v. Superior Court (2010) 191 Cal.App.4th 210, 218; see also Cal. Labor Code § 2699(f)(2). Given that risk, many employers will likely find it more cost-effective to simply buy more chairs.

If you believe that your employer has unreasonably denied you access to seating while performing work or during breaks, please contact Bryan Schwartz Law.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Close Call for Unions and the Employees they Represent at the U.S. Supreme Court

Public-sector unions will live to fight another day after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 4-4 split decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association on Tuesday. The ruling—which comprised of a single sentence and has no precedential value outside the Ninth Circuit—is most notable for what it did not do: that is, provide a means to gut unions for both public- and private-sector employees nationwide.

Friedrichs challenged a long-standing rule, first applied to public-sector unions in the 1977 Supreme Court case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209, 235-36. In Abood, the Court determined that public sector unions could require non-members to pay an agency fee (also known as a “fair share fee”)  to support the union’s collective-bargaining and-grievance adjustment activities from which all employees would benefit regardless of their union membership. Id. at 225-31. The Court distinguished these expenditures from a union’s political spending, for which a non-member could not be compelled to contribute to the union under the First Amendment. Id. at 232-36. The Abood decision in turn relied on earlier decisions by the high court which affirmed the right of private-sector unions to require all employees within a bargaining unit to contribute to non-political union expenditures. See Machinists v. Street, 367 U.S. 740 (1961); Railway Employees’ Department v. Hanson, 351 U.S. 225 (1956).

As a practical matter, a union’s ability to ensure that all employees pay their fair share of collective bargaining expenses is essential to its survival. A union bargains on behalf of all employees, regardless of whether those employees are members. Without the ability to require fair share fees, a union faces a collective action problem: why would an individual employee pay union dues when that employee can reap all of the benefits of the union’s collective bargaining efforts for free?
The necessity of fair share fees to the survival of unions has made them an enticing target for conservative efforts to attack unions and worker protections generally. The Roberts Court (or rather, its five most conservative members) signaled its eagerness to overturn the nearly forty-year old Abood precedent in its 2014 decision Harris v. Quinn, in which Justice Alito’s majority opinion criticized Abood extensively and declined to extend its holding to home health care workers paid by the state of Illinois. See Harris v. Quinn, 134 S.Ct. 2618 (2014). After Harris, the conservative advocacy group the Center for Individual Rights took the bait and brought the Friedrichs case with the goal of eliminating fair share fees from public-sector unions. Then, after the oral argument in Friedrichs this January, those same five justices from the Harris majority appeared primed to overrule Abood, notwithstanding the consequences for unions nationwide and the millions of workers they represent. 

Thus, little doubt exists that were Justice Scalia still on the Court, Friedrichs would have crippled public-sector unions and provided a blueprint to apply the same reasoning to target private-sector unions as well. That decision would have paralyzed the collective bargaining rights of teachers, firefighters, healthcare workers, and countless other public employees in the 23 states that allow fair share fees.

Unions and workers had a good day on Tuesday, but the fight continues. The Center for Individual Rights has already announced its intent to file a petition for rehearing of Friedrichs in light of the split decision. The future of public-sector employee unions thus rests in the hands of the Supreme Court’s next member.