Exploring New Approaches to Unsettled Legal Questions

Tag: Robert F. Wagner National Labor and Employment Law Competition

Are Drug-Free Workplace Policies Discriminatory?

by Tian Lei*

Do state laws that pro­hib­it employ­ers from dis­crim­i­nat­ing against employ­ees on the basis of med­ical mar­i­jua­na card­hold­er sta­tus effec­tive­ly pro­tect card­hold­er employ­ees? In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Tian Lei (’21) argues that when courts rec­og­nize and legit­imize employ­ers’ inter­est in main­tain­ing drug-free work-place poli­cies, card­hold­er employ­ees become espe­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble to adverse employ­ment action. This Con­tri­bu­tion estab­lish­es that drug-free work­place poli­cies often leave card­hold­er employ­ees with a choice between their health and their job and that the scope and legit­i­ma­cy of such poli­cies must be inter­ro­gat­ed if the law is to pro­tect med­ical mar­i­jua­na card­hold­ers from employ­ment discrimination.

An Application of Federal Preemption Law to State Efforts to Legalize Medical Marijuana

by Shri­vats San­gane­r­ia*

The fed­er­al­ist mod­el of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers often sets up pro­tract­ed con­flict over the extent to which the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is able to pre­empt the actions of states. Among the grow­ing are­nas for such pre­emp­tion dis­putes is the field of con­trolled sub­stances, which the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment reg­u­lates under the Con­trolled Sub­stances Act (“CSA”). How­ev­er, sev­er­al state leg­is­la­tures have chal­lenged the fed­er­al government’s pre­emp­tive author­i­ty by cre­at­ing med­ical mar­i­jua­na card­hold­er sys­tems, where indi­vid­u­als can reg­is­ter for a card to obtain and con­sume med­ical mar­i­jua­na. Any such state med­ical mar­i­jua­na laws (“SMML”) that were mod­eled this way would pre­vent card­hold­ers from being dis­crim­i­nat­ed against by their employ­ers, and shield doc­tors who pre­scribe med­ical mar­i­jua­na from crim­i­nal lia­bil­i­ty. In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Shri­vats San­gane­r­ia (’21) argues that any such state statute should be pre­empt­ed under a the­o­ry of obsta­cle pre­emp­tion, for the state would have affir­ma­tive­ly autho­rized con­duct that Con­gress pro­hib­it­ed with the CSA, thus frus­trat­ing the pur­pose of the fed­er­al legislation.

Prejudgment Interest in Hybrid Jones Act-Unseaworthiness Claims

by Nate Blevins*

Are plain­tiffs who raise hybrid claims for unsea­wor­thi­ness under the com­mon law of admi­ral­ty and neg­li­gence under the Jones Act inel­i­gi­ble to obtain pre­judg­ment inter­est? In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Nate Blevins (’19) dis­cuss­es the inter­ac­tion of admi­ral­ty com­mon law and the Jones Act—along with the Fed­er­al Employ­ers Lia­bil­i­ty Act incor­po­rat­ed therein—that has led to a cir­cuit split on this issue. Ulti­mate­ly, this Con­tri­bu­tion argues that, con­trary to the rule in most cir­cuits, a plain­tiff who pre­vails on both counts of a hybrid claim should be eli­gi­ble for pre­judg­ment interest.

Ensuring Equality in Employment: A plaintiff alleging sexual orientation discrimination necessarily states a valid sex discrimination claim under Title VII

by Eri­ka Mur­doch*

Does a plain­tiff alleg­ing sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion dis­crim­i­na­tion state a valid cause of action under Title VII of the Civ­il Rights Act of 1964? In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Eri­ka Mur­dock (’19) dis­cuss­es whether sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion dis­crim­i­na­tion is encom­passed with­in the lan­guage of Title VII after recent EEOC and appel­late court cas­es. Ulti­mate­ly, this Con­tri­bu­tion argues that Title VII’s pro­hi­bi­tion of dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of “sex” inher­ent­ly encom­pass­es sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion as a sub­set of the sex dis­crim­i­na­tion it bans.

Sustaining Academic Freedom: The Need to Redefine the Threshold Question in First Amendment Claims Brought by Public University Professors

by Emi­ly Sev­er­al*

Can a pub­lic uni­ver­si­ty ter­mi­nate a pro­fes­sor for speech made relat­ed to the uni­ver­si­ty? In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Emi­ly Sev­er­al (’18) ana­lyzes the scope of pub­lic employ­ees’ First Amend­ment rights with regard to speech made in their per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al capac­i­ties. This Con­tri­bu­tion ulti­mate­ly argues that the Supreme Court should estab­lish an excep­tion to the thresh­old require­ment set in Garcetti v. Cebal­los in order to pre­serve aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom on pub­lic uni­ver­si­ty campuses.

Rethinking Qualified Immunity: Making America Accountable Again

by Vic­to­ria del Rio-Guarn­er*

Should the qual­i­fied immu­ni­ty doc­trine be revis­it­ed to bet­ter allow civil­ians to sue gov­ern­ment offi­cials for vio­la­tions of fun­da­men­tal rights? In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Vic­to­ria del Rio-Guarn­er (’18) dis­cuss­es how the Supreme Court’s deci­sions in Har­low v. Fitzger­ald and Pear­son v. Calla­han essen­tial­ly ren­dered qual­i­fied immu­ni­ty to Sec­tion 1983 claims unqual­i­fied. This Con­tri­bu­tion argues that qual­i­fied immu­ni­ty doc­trine should be recal­i­brat­ed in order to bet­ter ful­fill its under­ly­ing pur­pose while not dis­abling Sec­tion 1983 claims.

Moving Beyond a Symptom-Based Test: Gender Dysphoria and the Family Medical Leave Act

by Josh Thorn*

How should courts assess whether employ­ees suf­fer­ing from symp­toms asso­ci­at­ed with gen­der dys­pho­ria are enti­tled to unpaid, job-pro­tect­ed leave under the Fam­i­ly Med­ical Leave Act (FMLA)? Josh Thorn (’17) explores this ques­tion, based on his expe­ri­ence com­pet­ing at the Wag­n­er Moot Court Com­pe­ti­tion, held at New York Law School in March 2016. The FMLA lim­its eli­gi­bil­i­ty for leave to employ­ees with “seri­ous health con­di­tions” pre­vent­ing the employ­ee from work­ing. This Con­tri­bu­tion urges courts to pri­mar­i­ly con­sid­er whether the treat­ment required for employ­ees diag­nosed with depres­sion and anx­i­ety result­ing from gen­der dys­pho­ria — and not mere­ly the symp­toms of the con­di­tion itself — would pre­vent the employ­ee from work­ing in deter­min­ing whether there exists a “seri­ous health con­di­tion” under the FMLA.

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