Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Janus vs. AFSCME. The opinion prohibits public employers from collecting fair share fees from employees who have refused to join a union. In the aftermath of Janus, public employers need to be taking immediate steps to stop any such deductions. They also need to prepare for current union members who may seek to revoke any authorization that they had previously provided. Continue reading
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that public sector employees cannot be forced to pay “fair share” fees if they refuse to join a union. This decision impacts all Delaware public sector employers, employees, and unions. Continue reading
One of the most anticipated rulings of the Spring Term was issued by the Supreme Court on June 4, 2018. In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled that baker Jack Phillips was treated with hostility for his religious views by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when they ruled that he could not refuse to make a gay couple a wedding cake. Continue reading
The Supreme Court issued a decision today regarding workers’ rights to collectively sue their employers for violations of federal labor and employment laws. We will have more to say in the coming weeks about how this decision will change the landscape of employment law. For right now, here is what you should know: Continue reading
On Monday, February 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, a case that could have a substantial impact on Delaware’s public-sector employers and employees. The Court is being asked to decide whether a public-sector employee who refuses to join a union can be required to pay so-called fair share fees to the union.
The intersection of Facebook use and Free Speech is complicated. Complicated enough, in fact, that the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on the subject when it decides a case it is scheduled to hear argument in today, Elonis v. United States.
The basic legal principle at issue is what constitutes a “true threat.” It is a crime to use the phone or Internet to make a “threat to injure” another person. And “true threats” are not protected as speech under the First Amendment. So, “true threats” to injure another made via Facebook can be punishable as crimes. Otherwise, the speech would be protected by the constitution and could not be considered criminal.
But what’s a “true threat?” Is that question to be answered by the “reasonable person” who would be subject to the threat? Or does the speaker have to have intended his words as a threat to constitute a criminal act?
In Elonis, the defendant was arrested after making violent threats directed to his ex-wife (and others). At trial, he testified that he did not intend to frighten anyone and compared his posts to rap lyrics. The jury didn’t buy it and found that a reasonable person would have viewed the posts as “true threats.” So now the Supreme Court will decide what the “true test” for “true threats” should be.
The legal issue may appear easier than it is. The facts of the case may make the speech and speaker less sympathetic. For example, his Facebook comments included the following about his wife, after she left with their two children:
If I only knew then what I know now, I would have smothered [you] with a pillow, dumped your body in the back seat, dropped you off in Toad Creek and made it look like rape and murder.
He later posted, “I’m not gonna rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.” And, when a court issued the wife a protective order, Elonis posted whether it was “thick enough to stop a bullet.” He also threatened to kill an FBI agent and to slaughter a class of kindergarten students, reports the LA Times.
Many employment agreements contain forum-selection clauses naming the state or the court in which any disputes must be litigated, and what state’s law will govern. Employers often name Delaware state courts as the exclusive forum, due to the high quality of Delaware courts and large number of corporations and other entities created in Delaware, and name Delaware law as the governing law. Continue reading