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Supreme Court makes 2 controversial employment law rulings

There are many state and federal laws in place that are aimed at protecting both employers and employees in the workplace. Whether they protect a company's trade secrets or an employee's time to take a medical leave, these laws can be very important to understand. This can be a challenge for many people in Colorado and nationwide, however, as employment laws can be complex and they change periodically.

Two such changes were recently announced by the United States Supreme Court. They came in response to two separate lawsuits concerning two separate employees. One ruling was in relation to discrimination laws and the other is aimed at limiting retaliation lawsuits.

In the first ruling, the Supreme Court narrowed ruled 5-4 in favor of specifying supervisor roles on the job. According to the ruling, a person must be able to fire, hire, demote, promote or transfer an employee in order to be considered a supervisor. If that person does not have this power, he or she is considered a co-worker. This distinction can be crucial when it comes to allegations that the person has discriminated against another person on the job. It is expected to limit the number of instances in which a company would be blamed.

In the second ruling, the Supreme Court addressed retaliation in the workplace. Again, it was a narrow 5-4 decision. The court ruled that an employee must be able to prove that an employer's only intention behind retaliatory actions is retaliation. This can also limit the number of lawsuits filed against employers.

There is a sharp divide on each of these rulings. On one hand, they may protect employers from being unfairly targeted in baseless or inappropriate lawsuits. On the other hand, they may make it more difficult for employees to sue businesses accused of misconduct.

No matter which side of the argument a person is on, anyone in these situations may want to speak with an employment attorney who understands these complex cases. Both employers and employees have rights that must be protected. 

Source: Associated Press, "Court makes it harder to sue businesses," Jesse J. Holland, June 24, 2013

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