Our Top Five Legal Victories for 2018

Date: December 27, 2018

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Time flies when you are fighting the good fight. And while our eyes are already fixed on the cases that will most affect the small business community in the coming year, its important to pause and reflect on our successes in 2018. Accordingly, we’ve compiled a list of our top-five small business victories:

  1. Cutting Off the Blank Check to Public Employee Unions

In Janus v. AFSCME the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a forty-year precedent that had enabled public employee unions to amass massive war-chests, which they had used in lobbying for new regulatory impositions on small business and heightened taxes. The Court ruled that public employees have a First Amendment right to withhold funding to the unions—which means that unions must now earn their keep the honest way, rather than forcibly taking money from dissenting employees. But as NFIB Small Business Legal Center’s Executive Director, Karen Harned, explained in her June 27, SCOTUS Blog commentary, the Court’s rationale also paves the way for us to challenge regulations restricting the First Amendment rights of small business owners.

  1. Leveling the Playing Field for Small Business Defendants

NFIB Small Business Legal Center scored a major victory for small business in Encino Motorcars LLC v. Navarro. As we explained previously, this opinion will prove highly consequential to employers facing wage and hour lawsuits. Authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, this 5-4 decision reversed the Ninth Circuit and repudiated the supposed rule that ambiguous language in the Fair Labor Standards Act should be construed against the employer. The Court endorsed our argument that judges should decide upon the best interpretation of the law without putting a thumb on the scales of justice.

  1. Blocking a Paid Sick Leave Enactment in Texas

Its hard enough staying compliant with state and federal law without local municipalities piling-on additional burdens. As such, we’ve made a priority of fighting municipal labor and employment regulation. And in 2018 we succeeded not only in getting an injunction to block enforcement of a paid sick leave ordinance in Austin, but we obtained a decision that said municipal paid sick leave ordinances are preempted throughout Texas. This victory should discourage Dallas, San Antonio and other Texas cities from following Austin’s lead. It may also provide a roadmap for others to challenge similar enactments in other states.

  1. Protecting Small Business Tax-Payers

Marinello v. United States may not have led the headlines, but had the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government it would have set a very troubling precedent. In a nutshell the case asked whether a small business owner could be sued for obstruction of justice simply on account of the fact that he had engaged in lawful business practices that happened to make an IRS investigation more difficult. We argued that such an expansive reading of the obstruction of justice statutes could conceivably ensnarl any small business owner in a criminal prosecution, even if they have broken no laws.

  1. Reigning in Federal Regulators under the ESA

Finally, we closed out the year with a win in Weyerhaeuser v. Fish & Wildlife Service—a case that many small business landowners have reason to celebrate. The case concerned “critical habitat designations” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Such a designation comes with a great deal of red tape for affected landowners. As such, we argued that landowners should be allowed to sue to contest a critical habitat designation if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fails to consider small business impacts. And, in a unanimous opinion, the Court agreed with us.

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