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It seems that the U.S. Supreme Court is not shying away from difficult questions. This term, the High Court has agreed to take up the Janus v. American Federation case which dismissed a constitutional challenge to a requirement for non-union members to pay "fair share" dues.

As the law stands now, under Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, non-members can legally be required to pay "fair share" dues because the non-member employees also benefit from the union's collective bargaining. The question being presented to the Court is whether these non-member dues violate the First Amendment, particularly given that unions can often be rather political.

Susan Fowler, the ex-Uber engineer whose viral blog post about the hostile working environment she endured while working for the booming ride-hailing app, has filed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court.

In addition to detailing her harrowing experience, her brief argues in support of invalidating forced employee/contractor arbitration clauses, which is at issue in a set of three cases which the High Court has consolidated. Specifically at issue in the cases before SCOTUS is whether bans on class actions and collective actions through arbitration agreements violates federal law.

Neil Gorsuch participated in his first oral arguments as a Supreme Court justice this morning, in a case involving the judicial review of federal civil service disputes. And if you expected to see a new side of Neil Gorsuch on the bench, well, you might be disappointed.

Gorsuch has claimed, loudly and repeatedly, to be a strict textualist, a judge in the mold of Antonin Scalia. And his questions today remained decidedly within that line of thought, as the new justice returned again and again to the plain language of the statute at issue.

As the new Supreme Court term gets ever closer, we can start to see how the upcoming months might play out: some intriguing criminal cases, important debates about race and the justice system, a fascinating free exercise issue involving used tires, and very little labor law.

Of the 31 cert petitions the Court has granted for the new term, only one directly involves labor and employment law issues: National Labor Relations Board v. SW General, over whether the NLRB's former acting general counsel could properly bring unfair labor practice complaints. It's a case dealing with arcane but important issues, with potentially significantly impacts not just the Board but the entire federal bureaucracy.

When Jeffrey Heffernan, a police officer in Paterson, New Jersey, was spotted with a campaign sign for his mayor's political challenger, he was quickly demoted, as punishment for his "overt involvement" in the opponent's campaign. Heffernan sued, arguing that the demotion violated his First Amendment rights. And he would have had a fairly straight-forward case, except for one complication. Heffernan hadn't been involved in the opponent's campaign. Not at all. He'd just been picking up a sign for his bedridden mother.

Could he sue for a violation of a constitutional right he hadn't actually exercised? Yes, the Supreme Court ruled today, finding that employees who have been punished in order to prevent them from engaging in protected political activity can sue, even when the employer's actions were based on a mistaken understanding of the employee's behavior.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what an out-of-balance Supreme Court looks like. Today, a deadlocked Court issued a one sentence ruling in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, an important and highly-anticipated case about agency fees for public employee unions.

Perhaps to avoid a similar outcome in a challenge to Obamacare contraception rules, the Court also shifted gears in that case. Less than a week after oral arguments -- arguments which indicated an equally divided Court -- the Court has asked the parties to submit possible alternative systems to the current exemption procedures for religious employers who do not want to provide birth control coverage to their employees. Let's take a closer look at these two messes.

The Supreme Court heard lively oral arguments this morning in a case over whether religious organizations must comply with Affordable Care Act rules on the provisioning of contraception through employee health insurance plans.

Those employers, which include religious universities, hospitals, and one group of nuns, don't actually provide contraception directly, however. They are already exempt from that requirement. Once they notify the government of their objections, their insurer handles employee contraception on its own. But even that, the employers argued before the Supreme Court today, is too great a burden on their religious beliefs. Here's how the arguments went down.

Things aren't looking too good for public sector unions after oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The case involves ten California teachers who aren't members of the public school teachers' union. While those teachers benefit from the higher wages and better conditions bargained for by the union, they object to the California law which requires them to pay "fair share" fees to the teachers' union to cover the cost of collective bargaining, arguing that the fees violate their First Amendment rights.

At oral arguments on Tuesday, many of the justices seemed set to agree with the teachers, ready to overrule long standing precedent that is relied on by millions of public sector workers across more than 20 states.

Pregnant UPS Employee Can Proceed With Discrimination Suit

An employment policy that accommodates disabled workers must also accommodate pregnant workers, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday in a 6-3 opinion in Young v. UPS. After becoming pregnant, UPS driver Peggy Young was advised by her doctor not to lift more than 20 pounds; however, UPS requires drivers to be able to lift up to 70 pounds.

Young requested temporary reassignment or an accommodation, but UPS refused, even though it granted such requests to employees for on-the-job injuries or for statutory reasons, like an ADA-protected disability. She sued, claiming disparate treatment under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Ex-Air Marshal MacLean Protected as Whistleblower, SCOTUS Finds

In 2003, an air marshal named Robert MacLean went to the press with a story that the TSA was ineffectual at protecting us from potential airplane hijackings. He was eventually fired, leading to a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against the TSA.

The TSA had always maintained that MacLean shouldn't get whistleblower protection because he disclosed internal policies in violation of federal law, obviating his whistleblower status. In a 7-2 decision issued today, the Supreme Court sided with MacLean.