When the Supreme Court rules on matters of statutory interpretation, it does not establish “methodological precedents.” The Court is not bound to follow interpretive practices employed in a prior case even if successive cases concern the same statute. Instead, the Court’s interpretive practices may change without warning or explanation, and at times they do so as part of a broader transition between interpretive regimes independently of any substantive change to the statute interpreted. Stare decisis appears to require no justification for changes in the Court’s interpretive practices. This is striking because abrupt changes in the interpretive practices applied to a statute have the power to disrupt the consistency and predictability of a statute’s enforcement and the rationality of its design.
Michael P. Carney was a good cop. Since graduating from the police academy in 1982, he received numerous commendations for his outstanding work as a police officer and contributions to the community. He had been recognized for saving a man who had jumped from a bridge into the Connecticut River in a suicide attempt, apprehending a bank robber, and cofounding a youth mentorship program. He had worked as a police academy instructor, an aide to the chief of police, and a detective in the youth assessment center, the narcotics division, and the uniform division. But behind closed doors, he was tormented by the need to keep a secret for many years—Carney was gay.
For years Carney stayed in the closet out of fear of reprisal and being ostracized. He went to work every day afraid to talk about his personal life, including a date from the night before, his weekend, or his family. He went into every domestic or gun call thinking if he were gunned down, who would notify his life partner? Would his life partner learn of his death on the eleven o’clock news? How would his colleagues treat his life partner at his funeral? This fear led to years of isolation and heavy drinking, which took their toll; in 1989, beaten and defeated, Carney resigned from his post.
Over the past twenty-five years, unions have turned increasingly to strategies outside the traditional framework of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). Frustrated by an ineffective NLRA legal regime and the demise of the economic strike, organized labor has pursued coordinated approaches in order to generate extended economic pressure on private employers who seek to avoid recognizing unions or to resist bargaining collective agreements. Coordinated campaign tactics include publicity efforts aimed at attracting media attention and consumer interest; regulatory reviews initiated to focus on a company’s possible health, safety, environmental, or zoning violations; and investigations of a company’s financial status through use of pension funds or other shareholder resources. Unions relying on these comprehensive campaign or corporate campaign strategies have enjoyed some success which in turn has contributed to a modest rise in private sector union density, the first such increase for decades.
Management responses to comprehensive campaigns often involve filing lawsuits against unions and workers. Employer civil actions may invoke state defamation law, federal labor law prohibiting secondary boycotts, or federal antitrust law. But the most high-profile and dramatic form of employer retaliation in court is lawsuits alleging a pattern of unlawfully extortionate activities under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”).
Because Kid Nation was the first reality show to feature minors exclusively, it provides a fitting springboard from which to evaluate whether reality children in general are covered by the FLSA’s child labor provisions. Although FLSA coverage must be determined on a case-by- case basis, a discussion of Kid Nation, and of reality television in general, will illuminate relevant characteristics of the genre and help guide future analysis of this issue. Given the untempered success and growth of reality television, it is unlikely that Kid Nation will be the last program to utilize the services of children. Again, a determination of FLSA coverage will hinge on three questions: (1) Are the children performing work?; (2) Are the children employees?; and (3) Are the children exempt as actors or performers?
Ten years after the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) was signed into law, paid family leave emerged as the new focal point in the family rights movement. Paid family leave legislation has been proposed in twenty-eight states and momentum is growing. In September 2002, advocates of paid family leave celebrated their first victory. California became the first state in the nation to enact legislation guaranteeing pay to employees taking leave to care for an ill family member. This legislation propelled paid family leave into the national spotlight, sparking debate on both sides of the issue.
Paid family leave advocates argue that the benefit is a necessary response to demographic and cultural changes in the United States. Labor force participation of women with young children has increased dramatically in the past few decades. In 1998, 62% of women with children under three were working, compared to 34% in 1975. Further, the number of children living in single-parent families rose from 12% in 1970 to 28% in 1998. These changes have resulted in a declining share of children living with a parent who is available to care for them full-time. By 1998, only a quarter of all children had one parent staying at home while the other worked. As a result, balancing the demands of work and family has become more challenging, and advocates argue that paid family leave is of increasing importance for working Americans.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) was enacted to promote the ability of older workers to compete in today’s marketplace. It recognized a disturbing change in the way that companies were treating older workers. Historically, older workers were regarded as a valuable commodity because of their skill and experience. The advance of the modern age brought about a shift in ideologies in corporate America. Older workers came to be considered a liability in the fast-paced business world. Congress drafted the ADEA to eliminate unfounded stereotypes of older workers as less productive and more expensive to employ. It gave statutory protection against discrimination to anyone over forty years of age.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, major American companies had entire departments staffed with hundreds of—sociological specialists who were charged with monitoring the private behavior of company employees—often in their homes—to make sure they did not drink too much, had appropriate sex lives, kept their houses clean, and used their leisure time properly. Worker privacy and autonomy has made tremendous advances since that time, but even today employers continue to take actions against employees whose off-the-job behavior they find objectionable. Recent examples of employee—offenses include cohabitating with a partner outside of marriage, smoking, drinking, motor-cycling, and even having a high cholesterol level.