News

UAW Drops Appeal in VW Vote

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has dropped its appeal of the failed February vote to unionize workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, the UAW announced this morning. At the same time, NewsChannel5.com reported, the union called on Congress to specifically investigate Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s use of federal funds as a part of a $300 million incentive package that his administration appeared to have used as leverage against the UAW. This major development came as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was set to begin hearings on the UAW appeal. The union had wanted the NLRB to order new elections, claiming third-party interference tainted the vote. In the announcement, UAW President Bob King noted that the NLRB process could take months or years. The union also cited efforts by Haslam and U.S. Senator Bob Corker to fight UAW subpoenas requiring them to testify about their involvement in the anti-union effort.

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6th Circuit Reinstates Age Bias Suit

The 6th Circuit on Friday reversed a Nashville court ruling and reinstated the age discrimination lawsuit James C. Pierson vs. Quad/Graphics Printing Corp., et al. The District Court had granted Quad/Graphics summary judgment dismissing the case, but a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit unanimously disagreed with the lower court, holding that an employee does not need to meet heightened standard of proof for age discrimination during a reduction in force. Business Insurance has more.

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House Investigating Haslam’s Role in VW Vote

Democrats in the U.S. House today opened an “inquiry” into whether Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration might have violated federal labor law by attempting to tie state incentives for expansion of the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant to the outcome of an election over representation by the United Auto Workers union. The probe is yet another chapter in the ongoing debate over whether Republican officials, including Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, may have interfered in the February election in which workers voted 712-626 to reject the UAW, the Tennessean reports.

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UAW Calls Haslam, Corker, Others to NLRB Hearing

The United Auto Workers has served subpoenaes on Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and 18 others involved in February’s union vote at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The UAW wants them to appear at an April 21 National Labor Relations Board hearing on an appeal of the vote. The UAW also is seeking testimony from Tennessee Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty; Will Alexander, aide to Hagerty and son of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander; state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga; state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, and others.

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College Athletes Can Unionize, NLRB Rules

Football players at Northwestern University are deemed employees under federal law and so can create the nation’s first college athletes’ union, according to a ruling by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional director Peter Ohr. Union lawyers argued the Big Ten school's football players are part of a commercial enterprise that generates hefty profits through their labor. The NCAA, Big Ten Conference and the private school vehemently opposed the union drive. The Tennessean has the story.

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NLRB Judge to Hear VW Case Appeal

An administrative law judge from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will hold a hearing April 27 in Chattanooga on the recent vote by Volkswagen employees not to have union representation at the plant. The narrowly decided vote is being appealed by the United Auto Workers, Chattanoogan.com reports. Officials said the time and location of the hearing have not yet been set.

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AG: Bill Banning Labor Picketing is Unconstitutional

A bill banning "mass picketing" by unions is unconstitutional, according to Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper. The bill is scheduled for a vote in the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee next week. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner asked for the opinion, citing potential "invalid" restrictions on speech. The AG's opinion confirms Rep. Turner's concerns, saying the bill raises First Amendment issues in the form of "content-based restriction on speech."

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Senate Approves Bill for Felons' Employability Certificate

The Tennessee Senate today passed a bipartisan bill 27-2 by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, that will "help reformed former felons find employment and lead lawful lives as productive members of society," a news release from the Senate Republican Caucus says. The House companion, HB1109, is sponsored by Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis. Senate Bill 276 will help spur job creation, reduce crime, and protect businesses from needless lawsuits by allowing individuals to petition courts for a certificate of employability, it says. These certificates operate to protect employers who hire new job-seekers from claims of negligent hiring. Knoxblogs.com carried the news.

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Minimum Wage Bill Voted Down

Legislation to raise the minimum wage in Tennessee was defeated 3-2 today in the Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee, the Tennessean reports. House Bill 1694, sponsored by Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, would have required employers to raise the hourly wage $1 to at least $8.25 starting July 1 for thousands of workers who have not been offered health insurance.

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FordHarrison Expands Mid-Atlantic Presence

Labor and employment law firm FordHarrison LLP has merged with the Washington, D.C., area firm of Kruchko & Fries. The move adds offices in Virginia and Maryland for FordHarrison, which has Tennessee offices in Nashville and Memphis.

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Appeal Filed in Nashville Nondiscrimination Case

Plaintiffs who sued the state over a law that overturned a Nashville nondiscrimination ordinance filed a lengthy appellate brief on Friday, the Tennessean reports. Nashville’s ordinance, enacted in 2011, extended the city’s ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity to the employees of city contractors. A suit was filed challenging the law but a lower court ruled the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they failed to show harm. Since then, the plaintiffs argue, the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act opens new avenues to examine such laws.

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TBJ Covers Wage Regulations Act, Social Security

This month in the Tennessee Bar Journal, columnists Edward G. Phillilps and Brandon L. Morrow cover the Wage Regulations Act, Monica Franklin discusses when to apply for Social Security -- and Bill Haltom worries about the possibility of airlines allowing cell phone conversations on board.

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Proposed Bill Allows Skipping Lunch Break

Republican lawmakers have filed legislation that would give workers the option of waiving their 30-minute lunch break currently required under state law, the Tennessean reports. Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said his intent is merely to give workers the option of bypassing the 30-minute unpaid break that almost everyone working at least a six-hour shift must take. Critics, including House Democrats, blasted the bill Tuesday saying it would take away an important workplace safety requirement and create a work environment in which employers could strong-arm workers into skipping meal breaks.

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Prevailing Wage Law Rescinded

As of Jan. 1, most government building projects no longer have to pay workers the prevailing wage rate. Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, sponsored the repeal of Tennessee's prevailing wage law last year, saying the law stifled competition and made building projects too expensive. The prevailing wage still has to be paid on highway projects in order for the state to receive federal highway funds. The Memphis Daily News has more.

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UT Gender Discrimination Suits Drawing National Attention

For nearly 40 years, the University of Tennessee's Lady Vols were a role model for college athletics while former coach Pat Summitt and sports medicine director Jenny Moshak provided examples of how women can succeed in sporting. But as two discrimination lawsuits filed last year work their way through the system, new filings and exhibits lead sex discrimination lawyers to believe they could become a model for similar cases nationwide. And there is plenty of fertile ground, Northern Virginia attorney and Title IX specialist Kristen Galles says, alleging that there is “massive sex discrimination in college sports.” Read more on govolsxtra.com.

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Self-Insurers Association Seeking Director

The Tennessee Self-Insurers Association is seeking an executive director. Duties include promoting improvements in workers’ compensation law, acting as a liaison with the state departments of Labor and Insurance, keeping members informed of relevant issues, and managing association operations. Applicants should have an understanding of workers’ compensation law as well as the legislative and regulatory environments in Tennessee. Download a job description. Resumes should be submitted to Board of Directors Chair Gary Eastes.

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Applications Accepted for Workers' Comp Judges

The State of Tennessee-Division of Workers’ Compensation is requesting interested and qualified attorneys to apply for the position of Workers’ Compensation Judge. All workers’ compensation claims involving illness or injury that occurred on or after July 2014, will be heard in the new workers’ compensation court. All interested applicants must complete a questionnaire by Dec. 1. For more information, contact the Division of Workers' Compensation Administrator Abbie Hudgens.

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Columnists Cover Retaliation, How to Handle a Neighbor's Tree

In this issue of the Journal, Edward Phillips and Brandon Morrow write about retaliation claims and how standards are more difficult under "Nassar" and "Ferguson." Don Paine tells you what the law is when a neighbor's tree's limbs and roots cause problems across the property line. Paine also reviews Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America’s First Sensational Murder Mystery.

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Nashville Considering Study of Same-Sex Benefits

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean plans to appoint a Study and Formulating Committee to look at domestic benefits for same-sex partners of city employees, his office said yesterday. Dean spokeswoman Bonna Johnson said the mayor agrees with a majority of Metro Council members who signed a letter asking him to “consider the provision of domestic partner benefits for Metro employees and to make the appropriate recommendations to the Metropolitan Employee Benefit Board.” The Tennessean has more.

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Vanderbilt Sued Over Summer Job Cuts

Attorneys with Barrett Johnston LLC, including civil rights lawyer George Barrett and former U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin, have filed a lawsuit against Vanderbilt University Medical Center, claiming the hospital violated the WARN Act when it terminated up to 300 workers in July without the federally mandated 60 days notice, the Tennessean reports. The lawsuit says, “Although the letters provided to the July 2013 group of terminated employees referenced ‘performance’ as part of the basis for the terminations, this was merely a ruse designed by the defendant to intentionally avoid the WARN Act's obligation and requirements.” The 275 workers let go yesterday were given 60 days notice, the newspaper reports.

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Magazine Predicts 12 ‘Hottest’ Practice Areas

The September issue of The National Jurist predicts the 12 "hottest" practice areas for the next decade. Those deemed to be “super hot” were health care, administrative, intellectual property and family law. Food and drug law, tax litigation, privacy law and compliance law were ranked as “hot.” And employment, energy, manufacturing and immigration law were judged “somewhat hot.”

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Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Payments Decline

Tennessee is one of 22 states where both workers’ compensation payments and costs to employers decreased in 2011, according to a new report from the National Academy of Social Insurance. According to the report, the state’s employers paid $783.7 million in workers’ compensation benefits, down 0.1 percent from 2010. By contrast, workers’ compensation payments rose 3.5 percent and costs to employers rose 7.1 percent nationwide during 2011. The report also estimated that 125.8 million workers are now covered by workers’ compensation protection – up 1.1 percent from 2010. The Memphis Daily News has more.

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Workers’ Comp Law Favoring Independent Exams Upheld

In a unanimous opinion this week, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a workers’ compensation law that gives priority to the opinion of an independent medical examiner when parties cannot agree on a disability rating. The court found that the law does not violate principles of due process and does not constitute an infringement by the legislative branch on the exclusive powers of the judiciary. With regard to the specific facts of Mansell v. Bridgestone, the court also found that the employee did not provide evidence to contradict the independent examiner’s finding. Read more from the court.

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First Wrongful Dismissal Suit Filed Against Vanderbilt

The first of what could be several lawsuits against Vanderbilt University Medical Center in relation to a recent round of job cuts was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Nashville, The Tennessean reports. The suit alleges the hospital violated the Family and Medical Leave Act by targeting certain employees to cut. “While VUMC has yet to publicly comment on the precise criteria utilized in selecting employees to terminate, some employees were targeted as a direct result of having exercised their rights pursuant to the FMLA,” argues Nashville civil rights attorney George Barrett and former U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin, both with Barrett Johnston LLC, who are representing the plaintiff.

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