Ruth Bader Ginsburg sounds alarm on New Deal rollback

Deep in a seemingly obscure Su...

Posted: Apr 3, 2018 8:40 AM
Updated: Apr 3, 2018 8:40 AM

Deep in a seemingly obscure Supreme Court case on Monday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sounded an alarm for liberals: The New Deal may be under attack.

The conservative majority is undermining worker protections from the 1930s, Ginsburg wrote, "without even acknowledging that it unsettles more than half a century of our precedent."

In the 5-4 ruling along familiar ideological lines, the conservative majority disallowed overtime pay for automobile service advisers at a California Mercedes-Benz dealership by broadly construing a category of exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act for overtime protection.

Certainly, the subject of the decision -- the only one issued Monday as the court continues its notably sluggish pace -- pales compared with pending cases on religion and gay rights, partisan gerrymandering, and the Trump administration travel ban.

Yet the fair labor controversy offers a lens on a likely struggle among justices over the role of federal government in American life.

Monday's decision aligns the court majority with the Trump administration's interest in rolling back federal regulation of business.

"By stretching the [overtime] exemption ... ," wrote Ginsburg, the 85-year-old leader of the liberal wing, the majority strips away "protection for ... vulnerable workers."

Monday's dispute centered on the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938 during the Great Depression. Its overtime pay requirements, as Ginsburg noted, were intended to induce employers to hire more people who worked 40-hour weeks rather than to keep a workforce of fewer employees with longer hours.

At issue in the case of Encino Motorcars v. Navarro was a provision exempting certain workers from overtime protection, specifically "any salesman, partsman, or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles, trucks, or farm implements."

The question in the appeal by a Mercedes-Benz dealership in California was whether service advisers who consult with customers about their servicing needs fell under that exemption. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that service advisers qualify for overtime pay.

Reversing that decision Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas declared for the majority that service advisers, based on ordinary meanings, are "salesmen ... primarily engaged in ... servicing automobiles."

He was joined by fellow conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

The majority rejected the view that fair-labor exemptions should be narrowly interpreted, and it spurned a 2011 Labor Department regulation that said "salesman" did not include service adviser. (That regulation had prompted the Mercedes-Benz employees to sue for back pay.)

Ginsburg countered that service advisers neither sell nor repair automobiles. More fundamentally, she said advisers working on relatively low commission are "precisely the type of workers Congress intended the FLSA to shield 'from the evil of overwork.'"

With "an exemption of its own creation," she concluded, the court majority "veers away from ... the FLSA's mission."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
Bolivar4087109
Oktibbeha403581
Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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