Thursday, June 24, 2021

SCOTUS: Fifth Amendment Takings Clause and Labor Law

Occasionally, the world of labor law intersects with the Constitution's Fifth Amendment Takings Clause: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" (incorporated against state actors via the 14th Amendment). Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued an important property rights-slash-labor law case in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid (C.J. Roberts). 

Chief Justice Roberts
A California regulation granted labor organizations a right to access agricultural employer's property for the purpose of union organizing. These Takings Clause cases get complicated where, as here, the government does not fully take ownership of someone's private property - but instead restricts the owner's use of his own property. The Court emphasized the importance of the property owner's right to exclude, and ultimately concluded that a taking had occurred.

Now, takings are not prohibited, but they do require a "public use" and "just compensation." This case was remanded for further proceedings, but clearly this puts a damper on the California reg. 

Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, authored a dissenting opinion, including concerns that this will undermine other government regulatory efforts that require access to property (ex. health and safety inspections). 

Labor law sometimes interacts with property rights - Can employees gather in the company parking lot to discuss unions? Can employees use their employer's computer networks and email servers for union organizing? Can employees picket on company property? And on and on. Yesterday's decision will probably not directly impact the answers to the preceding questions - but, it's a push toward stronger employer property rights and weaker labor access rights. 

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