News

Judge Blocks Obama Overtime Pay Rule

A federal judge today granted an emergency injunction against an Obama administration rule that would require mandatory overtime pay for more than four million workers, the Hill reports. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant in Texas agreed with 21 states and a coalition of business groups that the rule, which was set to take effect Dec. 1, likely contradicted Congress-passed labor laws. The rule would have doubled to $47,500 the amount a worker must earn to be exempt from overtime pay.

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CLE Explores New Rules for Wellness Programs

New rules from the EEOC impacting what incentive employers may offer to employees who provide medical information as part of a wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act take effect Jan. 1. Nashville lawyer Fredrick Bissinger, with Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones, will cover the do’s and don’ts of the new rules at a webcast CLE on Dec. 6. Get more information or register online.

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Judge Blocks Union ‘Persuader Rule’

A Texas-based federal judge yesterday blocked the Obama administration’s “persuader rule,” which would have required third-party lawyers and other labor consultants to publicly disclose work they do for companies related to union organization efforts, even if they do not contact employees directly. U.S. Judge Sam Cummings finalized a temporary injunction he issued against the rule in June. Cummings said the rule oversteps the Labor Department’s authority under federal law. The Nashville Business Journal has more on the decision.

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Court Raises Doubts About Temporary Presidential Picks

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday raised doubts about the temporary appointment of a former labor official in a case that could limit the president’s power to fill top government posts, the Associated Press reports. The justices are considering whether Lafe Solomon was allowed to serve as acting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board while he was waiting for Senate confirmation to fill the role permanently. A federal appeals court ruled last year that Solomon’s tenure was invalid. A ruling from the high court is expected by the end of June. WRCB-TV has the story.

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Appeals Court Upholds City’s Right to Cut COLAs

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed a district court ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed against the city of Chattanooga by retired firefighters and police officers over reforms to their pension plans, the Times Free Press reports. U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Collier had granted the city’s motion for summary judgment agreeing that cost-of-living adjustments did not constitute a vested right or contract between the city and its employees. The appellate panel found that, “The retirees do not have a contractual right to a fixed three-percent COLA, because the City Code does not bind the fund to the fixed COLA.”

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Workers’ Compensation Court Holding Listening Sessions

The Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims will hold a series of listening sessions across the state for members of the bar and public to weigh in on the new court system and to suggest areas for improvement. Chief Judge Kenneth M. Switzer and Brian Holmes, director of Mediation and Ombudsmen Services of Tennessee, will host sessions in Murfreesboro on Nov. 15, Jackson on Nov. 29, Memphis on Nov. 30, Nashville on Dec. 1, Chattanooga on Dec. 7, Cookeville on Dec. 9, Kingsport on Dec. 13 and Knoxville on Dec. 14. Those unable to attend in person may submit written comments. The March issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal looked at the new court.

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Regulators Allow Beauty App to Operate

The Tennessee Cosmetology and Barber Examiners Board has dropped its complaint against Belle, a new app that connects users with licensed beauty and fitness professionals, Forbes reports. The board had threatened the company with a $500 fine and a cease-and-desist order for lacking a cosmetology license. The board ultimately decided Belle was a technology company and not a cosmetology shop, and closed the complaint. It also dropped a complaint against a similar app, Stylist on Call. Belle says it plans to work with legislators next year to ensure regulations “keep pace with evolving markets and technology.”

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EEOC Sues Nashville Company for Same-Sex Harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit Friday against Nashville-based manufacturer Centurion Products, accusing it of violating federal law by allowing same-sex sexual harassment at its East Germantown plant. According to the compliant, a male supervisor continually made sexually charged insults and innuendos at other male employees, creating a “hostile work environment,” the Nashville Business Journal reports. One employee also alleges that his termination was the direct result of his refusal to identify the defendant to other supervisors.

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Granny Pods, Employment Law … and Setting Up an Office at the Wal-Firm

Pick up your copy of the current Tennessee Bar Journal for some weekend reading and you'll find a variety of subjects by our crackerjack columnists. Edward Phillips and Brandon Morrow write about subjective beliefs in two recent age discrimination cases and Monica Franklin looks at the new “granny pods” that are now legal in Tennessee. Nick McCall reviews Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis and humor columnist Bill Haltom considers setting up his office at the Wal-Firm. Read the entire October issue here.

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Jury Finds for Workers in First Amendment Case

Two former Monroe County sheriff’s office employees who say they were fired for political activities have won a $200,000 settlement from a federal jury in Knoxville, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The pair sued Sheriff Tommy Jones and Chief Deputy Randy White, claiming they were fired for being allies of an opposing candidate for sheriff. "No government employee should have to fear that if he supports the wrong candidate, he will lose his job,” attorney David Garrison said after the verdict favoring his clients was announced.

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SCOTUS Denies NCAA Appeal in O'Bannon Amateurism Case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will not hear the NCAA’s appeal in the Ed O'Bannon case, keeping the lower court’s decision that found amateurism rules for college basketball and football players to be in violation of federal antitrust laws. The LA Times reports that the court also rejected another appeal, this one from former college basketball star O’Bannon, that called for a plan to pay football and basketball players. In 2014, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in the original case that the NCAA’s use of names, images and likenesses of college athletes without compensation violated antitrust law.
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Labor Department Issues Sick Leave Mandate

In the latest move by the Obama administration to expand benefits for workers, the Department of Labor today issued a new rule requiring federal government contractors to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave to employees. The move is estimated to benefit 1.15 million workers, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The rule follows an executive order Obama issued last year. The rule applies only to contracts resulting from government solicitations after Jan. 1, 2017.

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Court Grants Review of 4 New Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review of four cases, which raise issues related to administrative employment appeals, marital property and two wrongful death claims. The Raybin Supreme Court Hotlist reviews each case and offers a prediction as to how each may be decided.

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Suit Challenges New Overtime Rules

More than 50 business groups and 21 states have filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas to stop new overtime rules imposed by the Department of Labor. The suit alleges that the department unconstitutionally overstepped its authority when it established a federal minimum salary level for white collar workers. The rule, set to go into effect Dec. 1, doubles the salary threshold under which workers qualify for overtime pay, from $455 per week to $913 per week. The Labor Department estimates the rule will impact an additional 4.2 million workers. KIII-TV 3 of South Texas has the story.

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CLE SKI Set for Jan. 22-27 in Snowmass

Mark your calendar for the 32nd Annual TBA CLE SKI, being held Jan. 22-27, 2017, at the Stonebridge Inn in Snowmass, Colorado. Participants will be able to attend CLE sessions each morning and afternoon with plenty of time to hit the slopes in between programs. Topics will cover entertainment law, social security disability, updates on labor and employment law, ethics and a U.S. Supreme Court case review.

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UT Names Panel to Investigate Title IX Programs

The University of Tennessee will pay four attorneys $45,000 each plus expenses to serve on an independent commission to evaluate the school’s Title IX programs, Knoxnews reports. The move comes on the heels of a federal lawsuit settled in July that accused the university of maintaining a “hostile sexual environment.” School officials said they hope to keep the cost of the commission under $250,000. The group, recruited by Nashville attorney Aubrey Harwell – a founding partner at Neal & Harwell – includes Stanley Brand with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C., Nashville lawyer Bill Morelli, Elizabeth Conklin with the University of Connecticut, and Janet Judge, president of Sports Law Associates. A final report is expected in six months.

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VW Challenges NLRB Union Ruling

Volkswagen last week challenged a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling allowing a small group of skilled-trades workers who maintain and repair machinery to be represented by the United Auto Workers union. The board had ruled that Volkswagen was engaging in unfair labor practices by refusing to bargain with the union. The car maker has argued that labor decisions should be made by the plant’s entire workforce of 1,400 hourly employees. That group narrowly rejected UAW representation in 2014. Knoxnews has the AP story.

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Legal Aid Reports $23M Impact on Middle Tennessee

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has tallied its annual impact on the region and found it provided $23.3 million worth of free legal assistance in 2015 – a 2.6 percent increase over 2014. The group also reported that it handled 7,022 cases across its 48-county service area; organized 76 free legal clinics, which served 1,447 attendees; coordinated 733 free legal educational seminars with almost 29,400 attendees; and distributed 64,607 self-help brochures. The agency this year also launched a re-entry program that helps people with criminal records deal with civil legal issues such as fairness in housing, employment and health care. Read more from the agency’s year-end report.

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Court to Consider Judicial Employment

The Tennessee Supreme Court this week decided to hear a case that could affect state employees in judicial offices across the state, the Nashville Post reports. At issue is the case of Judith Moore-Pennoyer, a former judicial assistant in Knox County Circuit Court, who was fired by Judge Bill Ailor after he was elected in 2014 but before he was officially sworn in. The court will look at that issue as well as whether judicial assistants are “at-will employees” that can be fired at any time and whether their jobs are secure only so long as the judge who hired them remains on the bench. The trial court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals have sided with Moore-Pennover that her firing was illegal.

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State Employees Group Calls for End to Private Prisons

The association representing state employees is calling on Tennessee to stop using private prisons, a move that comes a week after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would end its contracts with private prison operators. It is a new issue for the Tennessee State Employee Association, which has typically focused on issues involving working conditions and compensation. The group, which represents correctional officers and other state employees, argues there is “simply no good reason to continue paying a private prison company that provides an inferior product, lower levels of safety and security, and debatable cost savings for the public.” The Tennessean has the story.

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Northern Virginia Law Firm Opens Nashville Office

The northern Virginia Spiggle Law Firm has opened an office in Nashville, founder Tom Spiggle announced today. The employment law firm in the Washington, D.C., area focuses on wrongful termination and pregnancy and family-care discrimination in the workplace. The new office is being led by Phillis Rambsy, a Jackson native. An employment law attorney, Rambsy has worked at law firms in Tennessee, Kentucky, Washington and Maryland. The office is located in the UBS Tower at 315 Deaderick St., Suite 1550, Nashville 37238 and can be reached at 615-647-8952. Read more in this press release from the firm.

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UT Facing Costs of $3M for Title IX Suit

The University of Tennessee will spend roughly $3 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that the school allowed a “hostile sexual environment” and violated Title IX in its response to sexual assault cases, especially those accusing student athletes. The amount includes a $2.48 million payment to eight plaintiffs and legal fees to their lawyers, and more than $500,000 to the Nashville law firm Neal & Harwell, which represented the university in the matter, Knoxnews reports. The settlement was announced July 5.

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New Harassment Policy in Place for Officials, Staff

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, has announced the immediate implementation of a new workplace harassment policy for the Tennessee General Assembly. The new policy expands the current focus on sexual harassment to include all workplace harassment and includes for the first time a transparency component, which will require that a public report be issued for any elected official or staff member found to be in violation of the policy. The new policy is the result of recommendations from a committee appointed by Harwell. Humphrey on the Hill has more from speaker's office and a link to the policy.

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Corporate Counsel Courses Now Online

Did you miss the 2016 Corporate Counsel forum? Good news, you can now stream high-quality online videos from the program on our website. Sessions cover ERISA and ACA litigation updates, new federal overtime rules, OSHA investigations and recent developments in employment law.

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Court Will Not Rehear Union Dues Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on a 4-4 vote declined to rehear a challenge by California teachers to a ruling that a union’s “fair share” agreement with the state did not violate their constitutional rights. The teachers had urged the court to hold the case until a ninth justice was confirmed and seated, but the court denied the petition for rehearing without comment. Legal counsel for the group said it was disappointed in the court’s action but “will look for opportunities to challenge compulsory union dues in other cases.” Bloomberg BNA has more on the case.

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