Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp
Section 701(b) of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act applies the Title VII prohibition against employment discrimination to employers with fifteen or more employees. Does this provision limit the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts, or does it only raise an issue going to the merits of a Title VII claim?
Supreme Court addresses nature of Title VII's 15 employee threshold requirement
The Supreme Court rejected the argument that federal courts have no jurisdiction over employment discrimination cases involving companies that do not meet the 15-employee threshold for determining whether an employer is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court held that – unless Congress specifically states otherwise – statutory numerical thresholds should be treated as an element of the plaintiff’s claim that can be raised as a defense at any stage of the litigation.
U.S. Chamber files amicus brief
urged the Supreme Court to resolve a split in the circuits and rule that Title VII’s threshold applicability requirement that an employer have 15 employees is a jurisdictional requirement. As such, this “bright line” issue should be decided by the judge at the outset of the case, rather than it being submitted to the jury as part of the jury’s consideration of the merits. In addition, as a jurisdictional requirement, it would not be waived if not raised initially in the case. As a practical matter, NCLC pointed out that small businesses are unlikely to be aware of this issue and may fail to raise it initially, that small businesses can least afford to bear the costs of discovery and trial that would have to be incurred if resolution of this issue is put off until the case goes to the jury, and that a jury’s consideration of this issue may be unfairly tainted by its view of the merits.