NFIB Fights for Small Business Rights in Court

Date: October 05, 2022

Four recent cases where NFIB got involved in the fight to defend small business rights

From coast to coast, in both state and federal courts, the NFIB Small Business Legal Center serves as the voice of small businesses in the nation’s courts. A single court decision can make or break a small business’ livelihood, so we fight hard to defend your rights wherever they’re in danger. Here are four cases where NFIB is involved in the fight to defend small business rights.

Bittner v. United States of America

On August 23, NFIB filed an amicus brief in this case before the U.S. Supreme Court. It concerns whether failing to file an annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts is a single violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, or if there is a separate violation for each individual account that was not reported. 

“Small business owners are continually complying with various federal regulations in operating their business,” said Beth Milito, Executive Director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center. “The penalties for violating these regulations can be extremely severe and potentially devastate small businesses that had good intentions to comply. Small businesses would benefit from applying lenity to civil penalty prosecutions. NFIB urges the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision.”

Mary Betts v. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services — Cherry Hospital and CCMSI

On August 29, NFIB joined other business groups in filing an amicus brief in this case involving workers’ compensation claims before the North Carolina Court of Appeals. 

In 2011, North Carolina passed House Bill 709, a major piece of workers’ compensation reform that NFIB supported. A major piece of HB 709, and the subject of this litigation, is eliminating lifetime damages for workers’ compensation claims and capping damages at 500 weeks. There is an exception to the 500-week cap when a worker is totally and permanently disabled, meaning a total loss of wage-earning capacity. 

The plaintiff, Betts, was injured while working as a health care technician and claimed the injury had left her unable to work, meaning the 500-week cap would not apply to her workers’ compensation. Based on the expert testimony, the North Carolina Industrial Commission concluded that Betts did not have a total loss of wage-earning capacity, and Betts petitioned the North Carolina Court of Appeals for a review of the Commission’s denial of extended benefits. 

NFIB maintains that “the language, spirit, and objective” of HB 709 “was to bring North Carolina back in line with surrounding states and curb excessive indemnity costs, while still protecting the injured worker.” As such, NFIB’s amicus brief argues that the Commission’s definition of “total loss of wage-earning capacity” as “complete destruction of the ability to earn wages” is the only definition that represents the legislature’s intent.

On September 22, NFIB filed an opening brief as a petitioner-intervenor in a case against the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) at the Oregon Court of Appeals. The case concerns the establishment of the Climate Protection Program (CPP), a statewide cap-and-trade program. NFIB argues that as an executive branch, the EQC does not have the authority to establish the CPP without the express delegation of authority from the state legislature. 

“The CPP rules will decrease the competitiveness of small businesses relative to companies operating in localities without similar regulations and pricing,” said Anthony K. Smith, NFIB Oregon State Director. “On behalf of Oregon’s small businesses, NFIB urges the Court of Appeals to declare the CPP Rules invalid.” 

“The current CPP Rules will decrease fuel availability and increase costs for small businesses and their families,” said Beth Milito. “These regulations are a great concern to small business owners, who already report energy costs as a large expense to their businesses.”

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency

On October 3, U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in this pivotal case determining water rights for land owners. NFIB previously filed an amicus brief in this case. 

The case questions what wetlands are “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA), and therefore subject to federal authority. Currently, land that is wet only part of the year is not considered WOTUS, but recently a  federal appeals court rejected that standard. 

“Small business owners deserve a clear standard defining what bodies of water are under the authority of federal agencies,” said Beth Milito. “The ambiguity of the Waters of the United States rule has put small business owners at the whim of ever-changing regulatory standards. We urge the U.S. Supreme Court to establish a clear, reasonable interpretation of the CWA that will provide long-awaited certainty to small businesses throughout the country.” 

The NFIB Small Business Legal Center protects the rights of small business owners in the nation’s courts. NFIB is currently active in more than 40 cases in federal and state courts across the country and in the U.S. Supreme Court. 

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