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Ruth Bader Ginsburg sounds alarm on New Deal rollback

Deep in a seemingly obscure Su...

Posted: Apr 3, 2018 9:40 AM
Updated: Apr 3, 2018 9:40 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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 752108

Reported Deaths: 13816
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033831790
Lake558431013
Allen41736693
St. Joseph37007565
Hamilton36617417
Elkhart29425461
Tippecanoe22938228
Vanderburgh22565400
Porter19369327
Johnson18486389
Hendricks17696317
Clark13233195
Madison13176344
Vigo12631253
LaPorte12429221
Monroe12226176
Delaware10970198
Howard10349224
Kosciusko9643121
Hancock8578147
Bartholomew8174157
Warrick7864156
Floyd7815180
Grant7248179
Wayne7164201
Boone6979103
Morgan6768141
Dubois6224118
Marshall6214116
Cass6024110
Henry5903110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509476
Shelby502396
Lawrence4753122
Gibson445595
Clinton443555
Harrison441775
DeKalb440385
Montgomery439890
Whitley406744
Huntington403381
Steuben400859
Miami395769
Jasper389155
Knox377691
Putnam373461
Wabash362383
Ripley347370
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332753
Daviess3035100
Wells295481
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey274335
LaGrange273272
Scott270356
Clay267148
Washington246336
Randolph245183
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228159
Fountain222048
Sullivan214843
Owen212358
Fulton204043
Jay201032
Carroll193820
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion175344
Franklin170435
Tipton166646
Parke149616
Pike138334
Blackford136232
Pulaski120847
Newton114936
Brown104443
Benton102614
Crawford102516
Martin91815
Warren84115
Switzerland8158
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0424

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109697

Reported Deaths: 20213
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1289521469
Cuyahoga1158802216
Hamilton814201251
Montgomery525861049
Summit484551006
Lucas43384824
Butler39098606
Stark33355930
Lorain25689506
Warren24612305
Mahoning22388602
Lake21219389
Clermont20138253
Delaware18892136
Licking16671225
Fairfield16589204
Trumbull16560483
Medina15618273
Greene15292248
Clark14244306
Wood13296200
Portage13254216
Allen11919239
Richland11611211
Miami10857225
Wayne9153225
Columbiana9039230
Muskingum8909135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8654251
Marion8649139
Erie8058165
Ashtabula7171179
Hancock6999133
Ross6948163
Geauga6850151
Scioto6540106
Belmont6159174
Union585049
Lawrence5741102
Jefferson5683159
Huron5554122
Sandusky5444126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5321109
Athens524460
Auglaize502487
Mercer487785
Shelby477095
Knox4573112
Madison444566
Ashland435997
Putnam4336104
Defiance432399
Fulton432274
Crawford4046110
Brown402761
Logan387678
Preble3859105
Clinton379266
Ottawa373581
Highland360266
Williams348578
Champaign344959
Guernsey325254
Jackson318454
Perry297350
Morrow291940
Fayette285750
Hardin275765
Henry273867
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269360
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220663
Carroll197548
Paulding176642
Meigs148540
Monroe136345
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan110124
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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Daily rounds of showers and thunderstorms will increase the flood threat across northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.
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