Supreme Court Set to Hear Argument in Title VII 15-Employee Jurisdiction Case

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral argument tomorrow in Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 380 F.3d 219 (5th Cir. 2004). [We previously discussed this case here when the Court granted cert.]Jenifer Arbaugh filed suit against Y&H Corporation (?Y&H?), asserting claims under Title VII. A jury found in favor of Arbaugh. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss (post-trial), contending that Y&H did not qualify as an ?employer? under Title VII because it did not employ 15 or more employees. The district court ordered both parties to conduct post-trial discovery on the issue. The district court later converted the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and entered an order vacating and reversing Arbaugh?s jury verdict and judgment based upon the determination that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction.In this case, the Court is set to resolve the question of whether or not the 15-employee threshold in a Title VII case is jurisdictional or is just an element of proof. Professor Ross Runkel argues here that there isn't any reason to treat the definition of "employer" (including its exclusion of employers with fewer than 15 employees) as being jurisdictional as opposed to simply definitional. I tend to agree with him on this point. Unfortunately for Ms. Arbaugh, the Fifth Circuit didn't ask Ross or myself before writing their opinion. The distinction between whether the definition is jurisdictional or not is an important one. If the Fifth Circuit (along with the 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th, and 11th Circuits) is right, then the 15-employee threshold issue cannot be waived and may be raised at any time, even (as was the case in Arbaugh) after a full trial on the merits.

Related Documents:-Fifth Circuit's Opinion-Parties' Supreme Court Briefs (via Ross Runkle's excellent Employment Law Blog)Sexual Harassment, Pregnancy Discrimination, Age Discrimination, San Antonio, Employment Lawyer