News

Chancellor Moody to Speak at Kingsport CLE

Chancellor E.G. Moody will share his tips for local practitioners at the annual Court Square CLE in Kingsport on Sept. 9. Also joining him will be attorneys Michael Crowder and Andy Wampler, who will cover the basics of social security retirement benefits and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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Appeals Court Revives Walmart Class Action Suit

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a gender discrimination lawsuit filed in Nashville by female employees of Walmart. Barring an appeal, the ruling allows the case to continue as a class-action lawsuit, the Tennessean reports. The women had been part of a national suit against the company but the U.S. Supreme Court found that the group did not qualify for class-action status. The appeals court said they allowed the suit to continue because the women narrowed their case.

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Programs Will Focus on I-9 Employment

Chattanooga attorney Terrance L. Olsen will give I-9 Employment presentations in Nashville on Aug. 4, in Chattanooga in late September and in Lexington, Kentucky, in early November. The presentations will address how to understand, apply and adhere to an I-9 compliance system; how to develop, install and maintain a self-audit system; and how to be aware of, communicate through and comply with federal & state I-9 penalties and punishments, the Chattanoogan reports.

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Court Reverses Dismissal of Health Care Liability Lawsuit

The Tennessee Supreme Court has reversed a trial court’s dismissal of a health care liability lawsuit against an East Tennessee doctor and hospital, concluding that delivery of pre-suit notice of a health care liability action via FedEx is a proper method of service under Tennessee law. In a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee, the Supreme Court held that the delivery of pre-suit notice to health care defendants may be achieved by substantially complying with the statute and that use of FedEx as the carrier of the notice letters constitutes substantial compliance. The AOC has more.

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Obama Announces New Overtime Rules

President Barack Obama yesterday announced new rules that will allow salaried workers making up to $50,440 to be eligible for time-and-a-half overtime pay, the ABA Journal reports. The new rules, which will take effect in 2016 after a comment period, raise the salary floor from $23,660, which was set in 2004. The administration estimates that five million workers will benefit from the change.

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Speakers Announced for 2015 Equal Justice University

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services has announced several national speakers for the 2015 Equal Justice University scheduled for Sept. 2-4 at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro. This year’s featured speaker will be Ramón P. Arias, former executive director of Bay Area Legal Aid in California and a member of the Equal Justice Works board. Other presenters include Rebecca Dixon with the National Employment Law Project, Eric Carlson with Justice in Aging and Georgetown University law professor David Super. The annual conference is cosponsored by the TBA.

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Union Dispute Could Go to Supreme Court

A group of California school teachers backed by a conservative political organization, has asked the Supreme Court to rule that unions representing government workers can't collect fees from those who choose not to join. Half the states currently require state workers represented by a union to pay "fair share" fees that cover bargaining costs, even if they are not members. Union opponents say it violates First Amendment rights to require nonmembers to pay fees that may go to causes they don't support. The justices could decide as early as next week whether to take up the case. WRCB has the story from the AP.

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When Competition is a Bad Word

More and more employers now ask employees to sign non-compete agreements, but what does that really mean? According to attorney and Knoxnews columnist Chris McCarty, it means that our courts don't like non-compete agreements, but they will still enforce reasonable ones. And determining "reasonable" comes down to two t's: time and territory. Read more at Knoxnews.com

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Court Rules on Head Scarf, Internet Threats

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued orders from its May 28 conference and four decisions in argued cases. In Mellouli v. Lynch, the court ruled that a lawful permanent resident may not be deported after a misdemeanor state drug paraphernalia conviction. In Bank of America v. Caulkett, the court found that when a mortgage lien is worth more than the market value of the property, courts may not reduce the lien’s value to the property’s market value. In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, the court found for a job applicant whose faith dictates a personal practice that contradicts the company’s workplace rules, even though the rules are entirely neutral about religion. And in Elonis v. United States, the court overturned a Pennsylvania man’s conviction for making threats over the Internet. SCOTUSblog has more on each of the decisions.

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June TBJ: Paternity Fraud, Economic Losses, Grad Advice

In this issue, learn how to successfully file a paternity fraud lawsuit by reading an article by Peggy R. Smith. You may also need to know how to calculate economic losses in employment termination cases, which Charles Baum explains. In this graduation season, Andra J. Hedrick writes a letter to herself (and new grads) about what to expect and what she would have done differently. There's a lot more in the June issue -- take a look!

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Justices Side With Employees Over Retirement Plan

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today in favor of participants in employee retirement plans who object to companies' investment decisions that eat into retirement savings, WMC News 5 reports. The justices revived claims by current and former employees of energy company Edison International who argued that the company chose mutual funds with excessive fees. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate decision in an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer. People in charge of investment options have an ongoing responsibility to monitor the situation, Breyer said. "The continuing duty to review investments includes a duty to remove imprudent investments," Breyer said. The AP has more.

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Court: Judges Can Review EEOC Bids to Settle Job Bias

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that federal judges have authority, though limited, to make sure the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is trying hard enough to settle charges of job discrimination before filing lawsuits against employers. WRCB has the Associated Press story.

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TALS Seeks Presenters for Equal Justice Conference

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) is seeking presenters to speak at this year’s Equal Justice University set for Sept. 2-4 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro. The conference, cosponsored by the TBA, is the annual gathering for Tennessee’s Access to Justice community. Speakers are sought to provide substantive law courses, ethics and professionalism training, and technology and communications skills. Send proposals by May 15 to TALS’ Policy & Training Director Anne Fox.

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Labor CLE to Include Session on Pregnancy Discrimination

Recent administration guidelines and case law on pregnancy discrimination will be addressed at this year’s Annual Labor & Employment CLE set for April 24 at the Tennessee Bar Center.

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State Law Limiting Workers’ Comp to Undocumented Ruled Unconstitutional

Davidson County Chancellor Russell Perkins has ruled that a state law limiting the amount of workers’ compensation benefits that undocumented workers can receive is unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports. The decision stems from the case of a Guatemalan man whose left arm was severely injured when he fell and was run over by a lawnmower. Perkins found that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government, not the state, the authority to set immigration policy, The Memphis Daily News reports.

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Healthcare Liability, Workers' Comp Bills See Action

The Senate sponsor of legislation to establish an administrative system for addressing healthcare liability and errors announced today that the bill (SB507 by Sen. Jack Johnson and HB546 by Rep. Glen Casada) will not receive any further consideration this year, but will be the subject of an ad hoc committee study this summer. Also today, the Senate version of a bill to create a system for allowing employers to create a private workers' compensation plan bypassing the state system (SB721 by Sen. Mark Green and HB 997 by Rep. Jeremy Durham), cleared its first hurdle in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee by a 6-0-2 vote, with one member absent.

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Court Clarifies Who Qualifies as Whistleblower

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday ruled that an employee may not qualify as a whistleblower unless the employer’s alleged illegal activity is reported to someone other than the wrongdoer. The ruling upholds a lower court decision to dismiss the case of a horse groomer who claimed that he was fired for complaining to superiors about the care he received after being kicked in the head by a Tennessee Walking Horse. WDEF has the Associated Press story.

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Lawmakers Shoot Down Equal Pay Nondiscrimination Bill

A bill meant to even the playing field for wages for men and women was rejected by state lawmakers Wednesday afternoon, Nashville Public Radio reports. The measure would have let women file wage complaints at their local courthouses. Currently in Tennessee, only federal courts can handle pay discrimination suits.

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Court Revives Pregnant Worker’s Bias Claim

A former UPS driver gets another chance to prove her claim of discrimination against the company after the Supreme Court today threw out a lower court ruling that had rejected her suit, WRCB TV reports. Peggy Young charges the company discriminated against her by not offering her lighter duty work when she was pregnant.

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Appeals Court Affirms $3 Million Judgment Against MTSU

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has affirmed a $3 million judgment against Middle Tennessee State University after its original decision in the case was reversed by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 2011, Jim Ferguson — an ex-maintenance worker who is of Japanese-American ancestry — sued MTSU for disparate treatment, malicious harassment and retaliation, alleging he was given work that exceeded doctor's orders after he filed a discrimination complaint. The Nashville Post has more (subcription required).

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Employers Could Opt out of Workers Comp Under Proposed Bill

Qualified employers could avoid the traditional workers' compensation coverage under a bill set for the Senate Commerce Committee next Tuesday. Sponsored by Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, SB721/HB997  would permit large self-funded employers to establish private ERISA-qualified workers compensation benefit plans as a substitute plan for workers compensation. The bill would limit medical expenses to 156 weeks and $300,000. Employees subject to the plan would not have the protection and oversight of the local courts or the Department of Labor, and would have to bring a lawsuit in federal court under ERISA. The TBA opposes this bill because of the extreme cut in benefits and because there is no advocacy on behalf of the injured workers. Use TBAImpact to reach out to your legislators today.

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Workers’ Comp Court Launches Blog

The Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims has launched a new blog. Created in 2013 after the legislature passed comprehensive worker’s comp reform, the court says they created the blog as a means of further communicating critical information about the new law and court, and to promote just, efficient outcomes, with an emphasis on service and courtesy toward all individuals.

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ABA Urges Corporations to Fight Labor Trafficking

The ABA called on Fortune 500 companies this week to help eradicate human rights abuses by adopting and implementing anti-human trafficking policies consistent with its Model Business and Supplier Principles. The group also unveiled a new database to assist companies in this effort. In a letter to CEOs and general counsels, ABA President William C. Hubbard reiterated the need: an estimated 21 million people are subjected to forced labor around the world and 168 million children are in situations of child labor. Read more from group.

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Pilot Whistleblower Sues for Wrongful Termination

A Morgan Stanley executive who apparently was a key confidential source in the FBI investigation into Pilot Flying J filed a whistleblower lawsuit in federal court last week alleging he was fired after his role in the investigation was discovered, the Tennessean reports. Financial planner John Verble filed the suit in federal court in Knoxville. He is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and personal brokerage funds.

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Attorneys Form Green Hills Law Firm

Three Nashville attorneys, including the former legal counsel to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, have opened a law firm in the Green Hills area of the city. Trajan Carney, Steve Elkins and Leslie Curry have created Carney|Elkins|Curry PLC at 3817 Bedford Ave. in Bedford Commons. The firm will handle general civil litigation and appellate practice, with a focus on construction law, general business litigation, administrative and regulatory law, and labor and employment law. It also will offer estate planning and probate services. The Nashville Post has more on the story.

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