Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Supreme Court of the United States
April 18, 2022, Argued; June 21, 2022, Decided
[*1982] Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.
] The Constitution’s Supremacy Clause generally immunizes the Federal Government from state laws that directly regulate or discriminate against it. See South Carolina v. Baker, 485 U. S. 505, 523, 108 S. Ct. 1355, [**342] 99 L. Ed. 2d 592 (1988). Congress, however, can authorize such laws by waiving this constitutional immunity. See Goodyear Atomic Corp. v. Miller, 486 U. S. 174, 180, 108 S. Ct. 1704, 100 L. Ed. 2d 158 (1988).
This case concerns state workers’ compensation laws. ] Congress has enacted a statute that waives the Federal Government’s constitutional immunity insofar as a “state authority charged with enforcing . . . the state workers’ compensation laws . . . appl[ies] the laws” to land or projects “belonging to the [Federal] Government, in the same way and to the same extent as if the premises were under the exclusive jurisdiction of the State.” 40 U. S. C. §3172(a).
The question before us is whether a Washington State workers’ compensation law falls within the scope of this congressional waiver. The state law, by its terms, applies only to federal workers who work at one federal [***7] facility in Washington. The law makes it easier for these workers to obtain workers’ compensation, thus raising workers’ compensation costs for the Federal Government. We conclude that the state law discriminates against the Federal Government and falls outside the scope of Congress’ waiver. We therefore hold that the law is unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause.
During World War II, the Federal Government acquired a large tract of land in Washington State known as the Hanford site. The Government used the site to develop and produce nuclear weapons, generating a massive amount of chemical and radioactive waste. After the Cold War, the Federal Government began the process of decommissioning and cleaning up the nuclear site. The process has proved to be enormously complex. It is expected to require decades of time and billions of dollars. Most of the workers involved in the cleanup process are federal contract workers—people employed by private companies under contract with the Federal Government. A smaller number of workers involved in the cleanup project include federal employees who work directly for the Federal Government, state employees who work for the State of Washington, and private [***8] employees who work for private companies not under contract with the Federal Government.
In 2018, Washington enacted a workers’ compensation law that, by its terms, applied only to Hanford site workers “engaged in the performance of work, either directly or indirectly, for the United States.” Wash. Rev. Code §51.32.187(1)(b). ] Despite the literal language of this statute, another provision of Washington law makes clear—and all parties here agree—that the statute applies only to federal contract workers and not to federal employees. See §51.12.060; Brief for United States 8, n. 4; Brief for Respondents 13. This is because Congress’ waiver of immunity does not extend to those whom the Federal Government employs directly. See 40 U. S. C. §3172(c).
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
142 S. Ct. 1976 *; 213 L. Ed. 2d 336 **; 2022 U.S. LEXIS 3010 ***; 29 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 387; 2022 WL 2203329
UNITED STATES, PETITIONER v. WASHINGTON, ET AL.
Notice: The pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by United States v. Washington, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 21279 (9th Cir., Aug. 2, 2022)
Prior History: [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
United States v. Washington, 994 F.3d 994, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 10831 (9th Cir. Wash., Apr. 15, 2021)
immunity, state law, premises, compensation law, waived, costs, discriminate, authorize, intergovernmental, discriminatory, unambiguously, projects, moot, contractors, employees, site, exclusive jurisdiction, federal land, facilities
Constitutional Law, Supremacy Clause, Federal Preemption, Governments, Federal Government, Claims By & Against, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Coverage, Employment Status, Employers, Administrative Proceedings, Claims, Jurisdiction, Governmental Employees, Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Mootness, Real Controversy Requirement, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate, The Judiciary, Case or Controversy, Mootness, Legislation, Interpretation, Employees & Officials