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Supreme Court Unemployment Case Law
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Steward vs. Davis 1937
This case first tested the constitutionality of the Unemployment tax, and it is well worth reading.
  • The arguments for upholding the constitutionality of the Social Security Act are mostly expedient, based upon promises of what Social Security would do. These promises have since been broken.
  • The arguments against the constitutionality of the Act, on the other hand, are prophetic.
Helvering vs. Davis 1937
A shareholder tried to prevent a corporation from paying Social Security and Unemployment taxes. Court says pay. These early cases establish the constitutionality of the whole scheme.
Carmichael vs. Southern Coal 1937
They said the whole Social Security law that established Unemployment is unconstitutional, because man has a God-given right to work. Yeah, says the court, and we have a God-given right to tax... Anything we want.
Rapid Transit vs. New York City 1938
Even before the Social Security Act, New York City levied a special tax on utility companies, paid into a fund to relieve Unemployment. This case upholds the constitutionality of that tax.
Buckstaff vs. McKinley 1939
A bath house on an Indian reservation has to pay the tax.
Republic Steel vs. Labor Board 1940
The Labor Board ordered the company to reinstate certain employees, with back pay. But the company does not have to reimburse the state for the Unemployment benefits they received.
Alaska vs. Salmon Cannery Workers 1940
Here, the court uses common sense to disentangle a rat's nest. Seasonal workers failed to come to contract with Alaskan salmon canneries before the season began. Are they on strike if they never went to work that season?
Meilink vs. CA 1942
Court says you have to pay interest on late taxes.
Standard Dredging vs. Murphy 1943
Ships, while in a state, must pay the tax on their crews.
Fields vs. NLRB 1943
The NLRB ordered a department store to pay back wages. The store wanted to deduct the Unemployment benefits the employees had received during the dispute. Court says no.
Great Lakes Dredge vs. Louisiana 1943
While dredges are on the rivers of a state, they must pay the tax on their crews.
BBB vs. DC 1945
The court says the Better Business Bureau must pay the tax, because they encourage businesses to make profits.
International Shoe vs. Washinton 1945
A company has to pay Unemployment taxes in the state where its salesmen do business.
U.S. vs. Silk 1947
Here, coal loaders are considered employees, while coal truckers are considered independents.
MA vs U.S. 1948
When a company goes belly up, the feds get first whack at anything left.
Labor Board vs. Gullet 1951
Workers were reinstated with back pay after they won their case with the Labor Board. The company wants to deduct what they received in Unemployment from their back pay. Court says no.
Commies vs. Catherwood 1961
New York yanked the Communist Party's tax registration status on the grounds that they weren't an employer, but a criminal conspiracy to overthrow the government. This court says lay off it.
Sherbert vs. Verner 1963
A Seventh Day Adventist refused to work on the Sabbath, so they disqualified her from Unemployment. Court says she collects.
Red Cross vs. Colorado 1966
The Red Cross says it shouldn't have to pay this tax. The court agrees.
Nash vs. Florida 1967
Florida said she couldn't collect because she had filed a case with the NLRB. Court throws out Florida's law.
U.S. vs. Webb 1969
Seagoing fishing boats with pick-up crews have to pay the tax.
California vs. Java 1971
The court says states have to pay benefits promptly. They can't put off payment until all appeals are exhausted.
Torres vs. New York 1973
His benefits were cut off without a hearing. The court won't hear the case. But three justices dissent.
Christian vs. New York 1974
The denial letters the state sent them never mentioned any appeal rights. So their case is sent back to the states.
Turner vs. Utah 1975
A Utah law saying that pregnant women aren't eligible for Unemployment 12 weeks before and six weeks after giving birth is struck down.
Fusari v. Steinberg 1975
The courts did not like the way that Connecticut interviewed claimants.
Hodory vs. Ohio 1977
A steelworker was laid off because a coal miner's strike left his plant without coke. He does not collect because this court upholds an Ohio law which disqualifies someone unemployed because of a strike elsewhere.
Smith vs. Idaho 1977
Smith thinks it's not fair he shouldn't get Unemployment while attending school full time, since people in night school can collect. Court says forget about it.
New York Telephone vs New York 1979
The company does not think it is fair for Unemployment benefits they pay for to subsidize strikers. Court says tough.
Rowan vs. U.S. 1981
The company naturally provided room and board for workers on their oil rigs. Now they will have to pay taxes on the value of the room and board.
Thomas vs. Indiana 1981
He quit because the factory would only assign him to make tanks, and he didn't believe in making weapons. He collects.
St. Martin's vs. South Dakota 1981
South Dakota wants to tax a church school. Court says no.
CA vs. Grace Brethren 1982
Religious schools which are not affiliated with a church try to get the same tax free status as churches have. This court says they took it to the wrong court.
U.S. vs. Lee 1982
An Amish farmer does not believe in Social Security and Unemployment, and does not want to pay the taxes. Court says pay.
White vs. New Hampshire 1982
He won his case against the state for dawdling with his claim. Now he wants the state to pay for his lawyer. It doesn't look as though he'll get it.
Porcher vs. Brown 1983
She thinks she should collect Unemployment when she is off work pregnant. The court won't hear her case. Three justices think they should.
Baker vs. GM 1986
They paid extra into the strike fund, and therefore they cannot collect.
Auto Workers vs. Brock 1986
This case affirms that Unions have the right to go to court for their members.
Hobbie vs. Florida 1987
A woman joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church and refused to work on the Sabbath. She was fired. She collects.
Wimberly vs. MO 1987
She took leave for pregnancy. When she was ready to come back, there was no job for her. She does not collect.
Oregon vs. Smith 1988
A rehab center canned three counselors who took peyote in a church ceremony. This court says the state court should decide if it's legal to take peyote in a church ceremony. If so should collect; but if not, not.
Frazee vs. Illinois 1989
He refused to work Sundays, because his religion forbade it, so they canned him. But he didn't go to church, so the state wouldn't pay Unemployment. This court says pay it.
Oregon vs. Smith 1990
Same issue as above. Here, the state decided that it's not legal, but it should be. This court says no, it shouldn't be.
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