The Supreme Court of the United States issued decisions in four cases today:

Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, No. 14-1146:  Respondents, employees at a pork processing plant of petitioner Tyson Foods, filed a class action alleging that Tyson Foods had denied them overtime compensation required by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) and Iowa law for time spent “donning and doffing” protective gear for their work. The District Court certified the class, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed, over Tyson Foods’ objections that: (1) plaintiffs’ method of proving injury assumed, through the use of expert analysis, that each employee spent the same time donning and doffing protective gear, even though differences in the composition of the gear may have meant different employees took different amounts of time to don and doff; and (2) that the damages to the class would improperly be distributed to some persons who did not work any uncompensated overtime. The Court today affirmed, holding that: (1) whether a representative sample may be used to establish class-wide liability will depend on the purpose for which the sample is being introduced and the underlying cause of action, and that in FLSA actions, studies like the one here have been permitted; and (2) the damages question is premature when distribution has not yet occurred and there is no record as to how it disbursement will be made.

The Court's decision is available here

Sturgeon v. Frost, No. 14-1209:  Petitioner John Sturgeon, a moose hunter in Alaska, used a hovercraft over the Nation River in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve to get to his preferred hunting grounds. While Alaska permits the use of hovercraft, National Park Service regulations do not, and Park Rangers prohibited Sturgeon from using his hovercraft within the boundaries of the preserve. Sturgeon brought a law suit, arguing that the Nation River is owned by the State, and the federal Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in turn prohibits the Park Service from enforcing its regulations on State or Native Corporation lands geographically located within federal conservation system units. The District Court granted summary judgment to the Park Service, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed in pertinent part. Critical was the language of ANILCA Section 103(c), which provides that no State, Native Corporation or private lands “shall be subject to the regulations applicable solely to public lands within such units.” According to the Ninth Circuit, because the federal hovercraft ban is nationwide, the ban does not apply “solely” within the units in Alaska, and thus was applicable to Sturgeon. Today, the Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision, agreeing with Sturgeon, and the State and Native Corporations appearing as amici, that the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation of 103(c) is inconsistent with both the text and context of ANILCA.

Dorsey & Whitney LLP represented the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation as amicus curiae before the Supreme Court.

The Court's decision is available here

Nebraska v. Parker, No. 14-1406:  The Omaha Tribe amended its Beverage Control Ordinance in 2006 to apply to retailers in the village of Pender, Nebraska. The retailers challenged the ordinance in Federal District Court, alleging that Pender was not within the reservation boundaries or in Indian country. Pender lies west of an abandoned right-of-way formerly used by the Sioux City and Nebraska Railroad Company. The District Court denied relief, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. At issue, as framed by the Court, was whether an 1882 Act empowering the United States Secretary of the Interior to sell the Tribe’s land west of the right-of-away diminished the reservation’s boundaries, thereby freeing the disputed land of its reservation status. The Court today affirmed, holding that Congress did not diminish the reservation in 1882 and that the disputed land is within the reservation’s boundaries. 

The Court's decision is available here

Hawkins v. Community Bank of Raymore, No. 14-520:  Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”), it is “unlawful for any creditor to discriminate against any applicant, with respect to any aspect of a credit transaction . . . on the basis of . . . marital status.”  15 U.S.C. §1691(a).  Petitioners Valerie Hawkins and Janice Patterson are both married, and their husbands are the sole members of PHC Development, LLC. Respondent Community Bank of Raymore made four loans to PHC, in which Hawkins and Patterson also executed personal guarantees. When the loans went into default, the Bank demanded payment from PHC, as well as Hawkins and Patterson as guarantors. Hawkins and Patterson filed suit, claiming discrimination under the ECOA on the basis that they were only required to execute the guaranties because they were married to their husbands.  The District Court granted summary judgment for the Bank, concluding Hawkins and Patterson were not “applicants” within the meaning of the ECOA and thus the Bank had not violated the Act. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Today,  the Court issued a per curiam order that the judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.

The Court's decision is available here.