Search Results for: Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Chamber of Commerce No “Friend of the Court”

Nice to see someone calling out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which frequently inserts itself into national litigation as a “friend of the court.”

In reality, the Chamber is almost always an advocate for a dues paying corporate member and espouses a position that is anti-employee and anti-consumer. In 2014, I argued the Chamber was a federal court lobbyist.

According to Reuters, the firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein has opposed  the Chamber’s request to file an amicus or “friend of the court” brief in a case involving a challenge by Direct TV to the certification of a class action by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.  Lieff’s brief argues the Chamber, the Chamber’s lawyers, DirectTV and Direct TV’s lawyers are bound so closely together that even under a liberal reading of the definition of an amicus curiae, the Chamber cannot legitimately be regarded as a friend of the court.

“The Chamber is not merely a friend of the party, but essentially the party itself.” – Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein

[Read more…]

U.S. Chamber’s Abhorrent Justification of Age Discrimination in Hiring

In the tradition of Scrooge, the patriarchy and the Confederacy of the old South, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has publicly endorsed age discrimination in hiring as both sound policy and reasonable.

The Chamber asserts its cynical position in an amicus brief filed in the case of  Richard Villarreal, 49, who filed a half-dozen applications to work as a Territory Manager for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Co. from 2007 to 2010, when he discovered that Reynolds, working with national staffing agencies, used “resume review guidelines” to weed out the Internet applications of older workers. Reynolds’ guidelines specified that “desired” candidates had “2-3 years out of college” and told recruiters to “stay away from” candidates with eight to 10 years of experience. Villarreal’s resume and the resumes of hundreds of other older job applicants were dumped into a digital trash can.

Fortunately, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta split from several other federal circuits and  rejected the Chamber’s argument.  In a 2-to-1 vote, a panel of three 11th Circuit judges voted that job applicants are permitted under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) to file disparate impact lawsuits challenging employer policies and practices that discriminate on the basis of age. (Note: the full appeals court overturned the panel’s decision in October 2017 and ruled that job applicants cannot sue an employer under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act for promulgating policies and practices that discriminate in hiring on the basis of age.)

In its ‘friend of the court’ brief, the Chamber concedes that older workers have far less protection against invidious discrimination under the ADEA than is available to workers on the basis of race, sex, religion, color and national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The Chamber said the U.S. Congress, in 1967, had “sound policy reasons” to deny older workers equal protection because “[o]lder workers did not face societal headwinds that might lock them into a lifetime of inferior job prospects ….”

Few would argue that slavery was moral or justified because it was legal – This is essentially the Chamber’s argument with respect to age discrimination.

The Chamber’s arguments are terribly flawed. For example, American law permitted the  enslavement of African Americans until the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865 and women were denied  the right to vote until 1920.  This in no way justifies slavery or the disenfranchisement of women. Neither does the fact that Congress 50 years ago buckled to business interests and passed an age discrimination law  that was weak and riddled with loopholes.

The Chamber’s reasoning is illogical.  Would the Chamber argue that blind or deaf workers are ineligible for the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act if they were born with normal sight or hearing but later suffered impairment?  They did not experience a lifetime of inferior job prospects. Nor does Title VII omit immigrants with advanced educations who became subject to discrimination after they arrived in the U.S.    [Read more…]

Chamber Renews Assault on EEOC

ProstrationIt is hard to believe but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has accused the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of overreaching in enforcing our nation’s employment discrimination laws.  Hard to believe because the opposite is true.

Due to budget and staff cuts, the EEOC is litigating the fewest number of cases in modern history –148 in 2013 compared to 314 in 2009 and 416 in 2005. The EEOC has practically ignored the epidemic of age discrimination that has persisted since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. The EEOC received 21,396 complaints of age discrimination in 2013 but filed only seven lawsuits that year with claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

All of this makes it supremely ironic that the Chamber, which describes itself as “Standing Up for American Enterprise,” is urging the Congress to  treat the EEOC as if  it is a rogue agency that is bent on crushing the last vestiges of free enterprise in America. [Read more…]

National Chamber Lobbies Federal Cts

When people think  of lobbyists, they usually think of groups that work behind the scenes to  influence legislators in the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however,  has had tremendous success “lobbying” federal courts  through  “friend of the court” briefs filed in  lawsuits  on behalf of its conservative  corporate clients. For example, the Chamber routinely opposes any perceived expansion of  worker rights and it usually prevails.

The Chamber, and its President Thomas Donahue, who earns a salary of $4.95 million a year, spend far more money to influence decision-makers than any other lobbying group.

The Center for Responsive Politics at  Open Secrets.org  estimated last year that the Chamber spent $1 billion from 1998 to 2013, which is three times the amount spent by the nearest runner up,  General Electric, which spent about  $294 million over the same period.   No union, labor, consumer or environmental group was listed in the top 20 U.S.  lobbying groups.

National Labor Relations Board

At present, the Chamber  is a critical player in a lawsuit opposing President Barack Obama’s 2012 recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).   Obama was forced to resort to recess appointments during Congress’s Christmas vacation in 2012 after encountering a wall of Republican resistance to his proposed appointments.

To challenge the recess appointments, the Chamber joined in a  lawsuit filed by Noel Canning  Corp., a small bottling company in Yakima, Washington. Noel Canning was the subject of  an adverse decision issued by the  NLRB in an unfair labor practices dispute. The Chamber argued that  the NLRB lacked the authority to issue the ruling because it was not comprised of constitutionally appointed board members.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in the Chamber’s favor last year, holding that  Obama’s  appointments violated the Recess Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The appeals court said recess  appointments may be made only during the recess that occurs  between each session of Congress and not during  breaks that occur  while Congress is still in session. The Court also said recess appointments can  only be made to fill  positions that become vacant during the recess.

The NLRB filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a strong pro-business majority. The Court  heard the case in January and could, in its ruling, throw the NLRB into chaos and upset more than a thousand NLRB decisions issued during the past two years.

The Chamber also wants to “save” the CFPB by replacing its director with a bipartisan five-member commission and bring the CFPB under Congressional control. This  would castrate the new agency, which was created after massive fraud on Wall Street led to a world-wide economic meltdown from which the world (including the U.S.) has yet to recover.

Other Cases

On another front, the Chamber is opposing a proposed rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to publicize companies’ health and safety records.

Last year, the Chamber  successfully opposed the so-called “poster rule” proposed by the NLRB to require employers to pose notices in the workplace informing workers of their right to work together to improve their working conditions.

The Chamber  does not limit itself to “lobbying”  the courts and the legislature. A Google search shows the Chamber in February inserted itself into a special election in Florida. According to Politico, the Chamber  funded a TV commercial attacking Democratic Congressional candidate Alex Sink for supporting the Affordable Care Act which, the commercial states, will mean that  300,000 Floridians will “lose their current coverage because of Obamacare.”

The  Chamber describes itself  as “the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.”