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.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén