News

MPD Officers Claim They Were Denied Promotions Due to Military Service

Three Memphis Police Department officers have filed a lawsuit against the city for not allowing them the opportunity to reschedule a promotional test that they missed due to their military service, the Commercial Appeal reports. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court Western Division and claims that about 20 officers experienced this problem. They are seeking an order to require the city to promote them or else offer a make-up test.
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Survey to Come on Performance of Workers' Comp Judges

The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims will soon be conducting its annual judicial performance survey, Chief Judge Ken Switzer writes in the Court Blog. Each of the 12 judges will be listed individually for respondents to provide a rating on nine categories, ranging from the judge’s understanding of the case to their punctuality in conducting their hearings.

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Get Details on Wage Litigation, Gender Issues at Labor and Employment Forum

The TBA’s 21st annual Labor and Employment Forum will be held May 8 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Sessions will cover the latest federal and state developments, with separate emphasis on the expansion of labor laws in non-union settings, emerging gender-related issues, and the continued explosion of wage and hour litigation. This year’s list of presenters include judges from each of the Tennessee’s federal districts and a former member of the National Labor Relations Board. Read more and register here.

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Court Holds Death Not Compensable in Workers' Comp Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that based on the testimony regarding Charles Kilburn’s death, his death is not compensable as a direct and natural consequence of his original compensable injury from a motor vehicle accident. Kilburn died from oxycodone toxicity a little over a year after an on-the-job accident. His surviving spouse sought workers’ compensation death benefits, and the trial court concluded that the death was compensable. The Supreme Court unanimously opined, however, that a subsequent injury is not compensable if it is the result of an independent intervening cause, such as the employee’s own conduct.
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Federal Court: Civil Rights Act Protects LGBT employees

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the ABA Journal reports. The majority of the 8-3 decision ruled on behalf of a former math teacher at a community college in Indiana who said she was denied promotions because she is a lesbian. 
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Court: Employment-at-Will Doctrine Applies to Judge's Assistant

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the position of trial judge secretarial assistant is subject to the employment-at-will doctrine that generally applies in Tennessee. The court’s holding means that either the trial judge or the person employed in the secretarial assistant position may terminate the employment relationship at any time during the trial judge’s tenure, according to a news release. If the employment relationship is not terminated earlier, then the employment relationship ends automatically when the trial judge’s tenure ends. The unanimous opinion in Judith Moore-Pennoyer v. State of Tennessee, et al., was authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark.

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Discrimination Against Gay Employees Not Prohibited, Court Rules

An Atlanta-based appellate court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit discrimination against gay employees, the ABA Journal reports. The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in the case of Jameka Evans, who said she was forced out of her job because of her orientation. The court said it was bound by precedent via 1979’s Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp., which said Title VII doesn’t prohibit “discharge for homosexuality.”
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Seymour Appointed to Workers' Compensation Court

Deana Seymour has been appointed as a trial judge on the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Seymour is currently a partner with Rainey, Kizer, Reviere and Bell in the firm's Jackson office. She will sit in Memphis after her April 5 swearing-in.

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Court Dismisses Tip Suit; Says Server Not Allowed to File

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that a Memphis food-service employee may not file a lawsuit against her employer for distributing tips in a way that violates Tennessee’s tip statute, because the law does not allow a private party to file suit for a violation. Kim Hardy filed the suit against the Tournament Players Club, claiming the business owed her damages because it had distributed tips to employees who were not entitled to receive them. 
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Next Week: Corporate Counsel Forum

Join your colleagues March 3 for the 2017 Corporate Counsel Forum, with topics ranging from technology's influence on the modern law practice to recent developments in employment law. Speakers will address cyber security and privacy, as well as productivity tools for the present-day corporate counsel. Another session covers the EEOC's new rules on what incentives employers may provide to employees who provide medical information as part of a wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
 
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
 
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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Crime Victims’ Private Records, Elder and Labor Law in This Issue

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s majority opinion in The Tennessean v. Metro last year was a victory for law enforcement and a significant setback for the state’s news media, writes Daniel Horwitz in this month's Tennessee Bar Journal. How the ruling will affect crime victims’ ability to protect their private records from public disclosure after criminal proceedings have concluded is uncertain. Also in the February Journal, Monica Franklin writes about The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2016, Edward G. Phillips and Brandon L. Morrow’s column discusses times when protected activities provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for termination, while Bill Haltom enumerates the reasons why your valentine should be a lawyer. Read the entire issue.

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Chattanooga VW Employee Files Brief Against NLRB Decision

A Chattanooga Volkswagon employee is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit to overturn a National Labor Relations Board decision that allows the United Auto Workers to bargain on behalf of maintenance employees at the plant, Nooga.com reports. A spokesperson from the National Right to Work Foundation, which provided free legal help to the employee, said the decision forced workers “into a monopoly union.”
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Investigation Called for Full-time Pay for Part-time Attorney

A probe has been called for in the case of an attorney employed by Shelby County who also runs a law practice in Mississippi, with fellow county workers complaining that the lawyer is getting paid a full-time salary for part-time work, the Commercial Appeal reports. The complaint alleges that Martin Zummach earns a salary of $80,000 per year and receives benefits as a public information officer and legal adviser to Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos, but doesn’t maintain an office at Juvenile Court. A complaint was filed on Jan. 13 and a local attorney is looking into the matter, with a report expected as early as this week.
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Harassment Suit Seeks $9.3 Million from Knox County

A Knox County woman is seeking $9.3 million in a suit filed today that claims her boss at the county procurement office sexually harassed her, Knoxnews reports. Janice Orr originally filed a formal harrassment complaint against her boss, Hugh Holt, in August of last year. After a series of interviews with county employees, the investigative body recommended Holt be terminated in October. Holt was then immediately hired by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department at a higher salary.
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Winfrey Merges Firm with Morgan and Morgan; Will Lead Employment Practice Group

Brian Winfrey, founder of The Winfrey Firm, is merging his firm into the Nashville office of Morgan and Morgan, where he will launch and lead a statewide labor and employment practice group, the Nashville Post reports. Winfrey will also work with Morgan and Morgan attorneys in other states in the employee rights group. Winfrey is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and currently serves as secretary of the Tennessee Bar Association.
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Lawmaker Requests AG Opinion on Parks Privatization

Tennessee Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, has requested an opinion from Attorney General Herbert Slatery III on whether Gov. Haslam’s plans to privatize hospitality services at parks violate state procedures. The Times Free Press reports that Bowling, whose district includes the Falls Creek Falls state park, asked for the opinion at the request of park employees.
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Tennessee Supreme Court Rules in Teacher Tenure Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday ruled against Rogelynn Emory, a former tenured Memphis teacher who was fired in 2005, the Tennessean reports. The case centered on whether the Memphis City Schools Board of Education (now Shelby County Board of Education) had potentially violated the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act by holding Emory’s appeal hearing more than 30 days after her suspension. The court’s ruling didn’t address whether the law requires, or merely recommends, that a termination hearing should be held within 30 days after termination proceedings begin. Rather, the court said that because Emory didn’t raise concerns about the timing during her hearing before the Memphis school board, she was barred from arguing it on appeal. 
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Help Needed Tomorrow for Memphis Veterans’ Clinic

A free legal clinic for veterans will be held Tuesday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Memphis Veterans Center, 1407 Union Ave., 11th floor. Volunteers are still needed, especially in the practice areas of criminal defense, family law and employment law. The clinic is co-sponsored by the Memphis Bar Association and Memphis Area Legal Services and takes place the second Tuesday of the month to assist veterans with legal advice. For more information and to volunteer, contact Jake Dickerson, 901-577-8236.

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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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Workers' Comp Court Adopts New Rules, Revises Others

The Tennessee Court of Workers' Compensation Claims has adopted several new rules and revised others, according to a blog post by the judges. Among the changes is a new rule regarding promptness for court. Under Rule 1.03, those running late for a scheduled court appearance should alert both the staff and opposing counsel. Failure to do so may lead the court to proceed without the attorney. A second new rule, Rule 2.03, requires notice to the court clerk and the judge’s legal assistant or staff attorney when a case settles prior to the hearing date. Finally, the court has revised procedures in Rule 4.03 for seeking a disqualification or recusal of a judge and in Rule 8.04 for inquiring about a status conference. The court also reports that there will not be settlement approvals on Jan. 5 and 6 due to a judicial conference.

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Vanderbilt to Study Impact of LGBT Policies

Researchers at Vanderbilt University will examine how public policy impacts the health and economics of LGBT people, Nashville Public Radio reports. Funding for the study will come from a $400,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. According to the university’s proposal, researchers will compare data across states to study issues such as how North Carolina’s transgender bathroom bill has impacted economic livelihood, or how non-discrimination policies impact diversity in the workforce. They also will look at the impact of legalizing same-sex marriage and passing laws designed to protect religious freedom. 

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Workers’ Comp Judge to Retire

The Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims has announced that Judge Jim Umsted, who serves on the bench in Memphis, will retire soon. However, he will continue to assist on a part-time basis with the review and approval of settlements. The court and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation expressed gratitude to Umsted for his years of service. Applicants to fill the post can get information from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

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State Still Slow Paying Unemployment Claims

For the past eight months, Tennessee has failed to meet a federal mandate to pay unemployment insurance claims within 21 days of approval. In the last month, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development processed 12,000 claims within 21 days and has 9,000 claims pending that are greater than 21 days old. For its part, the department blames the delays on upgrades to its online system that were made last spring. They say issues should be resolved by mid-January, WBIR reports.

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Law Firms Join Statewide Anti-Discrimination Coalition

Nearly 200 Tennessee-based businesses have joined Tennessee Thrives, a new anti-discrimination coalition that will “serve as a watchdog for the General Assembly,” the Nashville Business Journal reports. Among the group are five law firms: Baker Donelson, Bass, Berry & Sims, Bone McAllester Norton, Frost Brown Todd, and Waller. The coalition hopes to educate and unite businesses across the state on potential legislation – such as North Carolina’s bathroom bill – that could adversely impact Tennessee’s economy. The coalition will not directly lobby legislators but will rely on individual members to do so. Members are asked to sign a statement that they support an “inclusive workforce statewide, regardless of race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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