Supreme Court protected small business from harmful outcomes
The U.S. Supreme Court recently wrapped up its 2021-2022 term and will be in recess until October 2022. This term saw major victories for small businesses in five cases. NFIB was the lead plaintiff in one, NFIB v. OSHA, and filed amicus briefs in the other four.
“From the vaccine mandate to arbitration cases, small businesses had a successful term at the Supreme Court,” said Karen Harned, Executive Director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center. “The courts are fundamentally the last line of defense for small businesses regarding government overreach, burdensome regulations, and costly mandates. The cases decided this term will benefit small businesses across various industries.”
In January 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic opinion in the unprecedented vaccine mandate case where NFIB was the lead plaintiff. OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) vaccine mandate would have required businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate their employees either get vaccinated or wear masks and undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. For the first time in more than 50 years, the Supreme Court heard arguments on an emergency application for relief and issued a stay of the mandate. A few weeks later, OSHA announced that it was withdrawing the ETS vaccine mandate. The mandate would have impacted more than 80 million workers across America.
In April 2022, a unanimous Supreme Court stopped the Tax Court from refusing to hear a taxpayer’s challenge to an IRS assessment. The Supreme Court agreed with the amicus brief filed by NFIB in November 2021. The case focused on the time period during which individuals can file petitions with the Tax Court to review decisions and determinations from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). NFIB argued, and the Court agreed, that the 30-day deadline to file a petition in the Tax Court for review of an IRS collection assessment is not an ironclad deadline if injury from the IRS decision was discovered after the 30-day window. This means that the Tax Court should function like any other court and allow its judges the discretion to extend deadlines in certain cases. The Supreme Court’s ruling ensures that taxpayers and small business owners have ample time for their day in court.
In June 2022, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Federal Arbitration Act’s (FAA) protection of individualized arbitration. The California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) lowered the bar for plaintiff claims which led to the shakedown of California employers. This decision protected small businesses from frivolous lawsuits brought under PAGA and similar state laws and upheld the significance of bilateral arbitration agreements.
In April 2022, the Supreme Court held that individuals who were discriminated against cannot recover emotional distress damages for violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and other related statutes. NFIB filed an amicus brief in the case seeking to limit employer liability and prevent emotional distress damages under these statutes.
In one of the last decisions of the term, the Supreme Court reined in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and limited its authority to address climate change without clear Congressional approval. In doing so, the Court reversed a lower court decision drastically expanding the EPA’s authority. The case concerned whether the Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to enact carbon emission standards, which are near-impossible to meet on existing coal-fired fuel plants. NFIB filed an amicus brief arguing that the EPA needed clear authorization from Congress before imposing costly and significant regulations on the energy sector, and the Court agreed that Congress provided no such authority in the Clean Air Act.
The NFIB Small Business Legal Center protects the rights of small business owners in the nation’s courts. NFIB is currently active in more than 40 cases in federal and state courts across the country and in the U.S. Supreme Court.