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Small Business Wins in Supreme Court
By Crystal Dallo :: Monday, November 26, 2007 :: 36848 Views :: Article Rating :: Business & Finance


California, USA - Chaldeans are fast learning the importance of legislation and politics and how the two can impact their business bottom line.  The Chaldean Caucus has long banged the drums of needing business savvy politicians from local to federal positions.  In Michigan, the Caucus moved forward in promoting and supporting three Chaldean political hopefuls.  Two of which have extensive business backgrounds. 

The Chaldean Caucus also monitors the judicial bench and the rulings they make that impact business.  The Supreme Court's 2006–2007 term was particularly kind to the small business community. The Chaldean Caucus estimate that at least half of the docket included cases with a substantial business interest. Here's a review of some major decisions for Chaldean small-business owners:

Court Limits Pay Discrimination Claims
A landmark 5–4 decision by the Supreme Court enforced the 180-day time limit for filing a discrimination charge. The case that spurred the decision was Ledbetter v. Goodyear.  The basic question was how many salary reviews a plaintiff could contest within the 180 day window of a discrimination charge after the alleged unlawful employment practice may have occurred.

A number of small business groups and legal foundations filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief supporting Goodyear and warning the court that an employer's ability to tell their story dissipates sharply as time passes. Memories fade; managers quit, retire or die.

The court's determination that there is a limit as to how far back a plaintiff can reach for damages represented an important victory for small businesses.

Limits on Union Dues Are Upheld
Another key constitutional victory was upheld when the court ruled that a Washington state law that requires unions to obtain nonmembers' consent before using union fees for political purposes does not violate the First Amendment. Small business groups have long worked to defend limitations that protect nonunion employees from unwittingly or unwillingly financially supporting political causes with which they do not agree.  Examples include issues like abortion, same sex marriages, and one party support. 

Business groups argued that there's a long judicial history of prohibiting organizations from forcing nonmembers to support a union's political activities.

Tort Reform Prevails
Trial attorneys fought to have juries impose damages suffered by people who were not parties to a case.  Tort-reform advocates felt it unfair that defendants can be punished for harm to non-parties.  The Supreme Court agreed.   The case of Phillip Morris USA v. Williams sent a clear message that punitive damage litigation has gone astray. 

The precedent established by the court arises in a number of other types of cases, including product liability and environmental litigation.

"Punitive damages have unreasonably exploded in both frequency and size.  This is partially because of the celebrity tabloid attention to big awards, the broad brush stroke that all business is bad, and other unfair stereotypes and prejudices.  Unfortunately this has led to an out-of-control spiral of the legal system.  The backbone of America is business, innovation, and the ability to earn what you merit," says Karen Halibu, director of business and government affairs office for the Chaldean Caucus. "The Supreme Court made the right decision. Punishing defendants for harms that have not been tried in court is simply unfair and should be ruled unconstitutional."

Chaldean small businesses are likely to see more opportunities whereby the courts advocate for entrepreneurs says Halibu. “Given the Roberts' court propensity for defending the core of American freedom and innovation, we are likely to have a number of opportunities to advocate for small business in the upcoming term.”