Last week, the Sixth Circuit upheld same-sex marriage bans in four states within the circuit, including Tennessee. After four circuit courts had struck down such bans in other areas of the country, including in Virginia, there is now an expectation that the Supreme Court will address laws banning same-sex marriage.
These opinions impact employers regarding application of workplace policies and handling of benefits. Under the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor opinion, same-sex spouses are married for federal tax purposes, provided they were married in a state that allows same-sex marriage. Currently for employers, this impacts qualified retirement plans.
The Sixth Circuit opinion is a 2-1 ruling with a 42-page opinion and a 21 page dissent. Most commentators expect the Supreme Court to take up the issue now that there is a split in the circuit courts. We will monitor upcoming opinions for their effect 0n workplace policies and management of employees.
The Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Noel Canning case in late June. The Court found that three recess appointments made by President Obama during 2011 were ineffective because the President lacked the power to make the appointments. This is the first Supreme Court case interpreting the Recess Appointments Clause of the Constitution. In years past, there have been other executive branch appointments under the Clause.
The NLRB is comprised of five individuals, thus the invalidation of three of its members means that the Board did not have a sufficient quorum to act. The Court considered several aspects of how recesses occur and what authority exists under the Clause.
This decision raises a question involving the actions taken by the NLRB. Between early January 2012 and early August 2013, the time impacted by the decision, the NLRB issued hundreds of decisions and appointed several directors. The full extent of this opinion on the decisions previously rendered is yet to be seen, as many will be back before the NLRB for reconsideration.
In a five-four decision, the Supreme Court released its opinion on the Affordable Care Act yesterday, finding the individual mandate constitutional and upholding the Act. The Court decided that the individual mandate does violate the Commerce Clause, but ruled it constitutional because the requirement to purchase insurance is essentially a type of tax that falls under Congress’ taxing power. Because of the finding, the Court did not need to decide whether other portions of the Act are constitutional, except for review of state eligibility requirements for Medicaid funding. The Court limited some aspects of those eligibility requirements, but these changes do not affect employers.