News

Efforts to Allow Opt-out of Workers’ Comp Still Alive in Tennessee

Some of the country’s largest companies are proposing a radical idea: let businesses opt out of state workers’ compensation laws so they can write their own rules for taking care of injured workers. In an article out today, Pro Publica looks at the issue and how the concept is working in Texas and Oklahoma, which both have passed laws allowing such waivers. Similar proposals are under consideration in Tennessee and South Carolina.

read more »

Drugs, Pro Bono and Other Legal Topics Covered in This Issue

Jason R. Smith writes in this issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal about controlled drug purchases and the probable cause necessary to issue a search warrant. TBA President Bill Harbison tells about some of his pro bono heroes and -- thanks everyone who gives of their time to ensure access to justice for all. Columnist Monica Franklin covers changes in the CHOICES Group 3 Program, and Ward Phillips and Brandon Morrow write about a recent win for the Employment-at-Will doctrine. Humor columnist Bill Haltom warns about the “para-lawyers” who might be coming to a courtroom near you. Read the October issue.

read more »

Former Erlanger CEO Receives Settlement in Termination Suit

Former Erlanger interim chief executive officer Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson will receive $600,000 to settle a wrongful-termination lawsuit she filed against the Chattanooga hospital more than two years ago, the Times Free Press reports. Woodard-Thompson claimed that she was the target of racial remarks and e-mail hacks when she filed a $25 million lawsuit after being terminated while on medical leave. “This settlement is comparable to what Erlanger had agreed to pay Woodard-Thompson more than two years ago, but was refused by her at that time,” Pat Charles, an Erlanger spokeswoman, said.

read more »

Tennessee Lawmakers Host Discussions on Privatization Proposal

University of Tennessee students, faculty and staff joined members of United Campus Workers in speaking against Gov. Bill Haslam’s privatization proposal yesterday during a campus visit from Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, and Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, WBIR reports. The privatization proposal is predicted to cut 1,000 campus jobs, according to The Daily Beacon. "Sen. Harris and I are traveling the state of Tennessee to see if there are any ways to make the state run more efficiently," Clemmons said. "But what we heard today is that, in fact, no, it is being run efficiently. It is being run effectively, and that's what we want to maintain." 

read more »

Metro Schools Can Fire Non-teaching Staff Without Appeals Hearing

Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Ellen Lyle said Metro’s director of schools has the power to dismiss non-teaching staffers without giving them an appeals hearing, The Tennessean reports. Lyle said in her ruling that state law “supersedes the Metro Charter’ and allows for a board to create policies detailing the process in which the director hires and fires personnel.

read more »

Erlanger Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Continues

Testimony resumed Friday in the Erlanger Health System lawsuit in which former interim chief executive officer Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson seeks to prove she was wrongfully terminated two years ago during her medical leave. The Times Free Press reports that during opening arguments last week, Jennifer Lawrence – Woodard-Thompson’s attorney – described Erlanger's board of trustees as a "country-club clique" that was unhappy with Woodard-Thompson after she reported inappropriate behavior from a former hospital cardiologist. Woodard-Thompson filed a $25 million wrongful termination lawsuit against the Chattanooga hospital. 

read more »

Court Adds 13 Cases to October Docket

The U.S. Supreme Court today added 13 new cases to its argument docket for the term that begins Oct. 5. Issues include questions of employee free speech rights, application of U.S. anti-racketeering law overseas, use of Iranian assets in the United States to compensate victims of terrorism and one hunter’s challenge to federal regulations on moose hunting. Justices did not act on a case dealing with abortion clinic regulations and one dealing with contraceptive mandates in the Affordable Care Act.  The National Journal and the Washington Post have wrap up stories of the court's actions.

read more »

Cooper to Lead New Nonprofit Practice Group

Former Tennessee Attorney General Bob Copper will lead Bass, Berry & Sims' new practice group focused on nonprofits, Memphis Daily News reports. “We want clients to know that we can be a one-stop shop for all the unique issues nonprofits face, whether they’re in tax, litigation, regulation – whatever it is,” Cooper said. The practice group, which will primarily focus on health care within nonprofits, will also counsel organizations on corporate governance, employment, compensation and business transactions.

read more »

Jury Selection Could be Difficult in Discrimination Case

A Chattanooga lawsuit filed by Erlanger Hospital’s former interim CEO Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson that includes claims of racial remarks made against Thompson could make upcoming jury selection arduous. The Times Free Press reports that Thompson claimed several high-ranking hospital officials called medicine "a white man's world.” "In this situation, a problem would arise if the defense attorney used peremptory challenges to remove all or most African-Americans as prospective jurors," said Stephen Wasby, an emeritus professor at University at Albany.

read more »

Chattanooga Councilman Seeks Citywide Minimum Wage

A 2013 state law preventing cities and counties from requiring employers to pay an hourly wage above the the established minimum may prevent Chattanooga Councilman Moses Freeman from introducing a citywide minimum wage. Nooga reports Freeman says the current $7.25 per hour federal rate is not enough "to get workers out of poverty." Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick is not keen on the idea. "For them to have their own minimum wage laws out of step with the rest of the state would distort the market and kill jobs," McCormick said. "I strongly suspect that the state would step in and prohibit the city from doing that."

read more »

Uber Lawsuit Moves Forward, Challenges Company for Reimbursement

A federal lawsuit filed by three Uber drivers in California can proceed as a class-action suit and challenge the company for tips and gas reimbursement, following a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen, Forbes reports.The lawsuit now represents 160,000 people who drive for Uber in California. Judge Chen rejected Uber’s assertion that the three people filing did not represent the entire company, saying that the 400 driver testimonials presented by Uber in the courtroom were “statistically insignificant." Uber’s current business model is based on drivers paying their own expenses because they are independent contractors, not employees.

read more »

State Requests Agency to Review Prison System

The state of Tennessee requested an independent accrediting agency to review certain practices and policies within the state prison system, The Tennessean reports. Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield asked the American Correctional Association to conduct the review. The agency will focus its review on five of the state’s 13 prisons, reviewing officer schedules and how the state classifies assaults or attacks within prisons.

read more »

NLRB: Companies Can Be Liable for Actions of Franchises

The National Labor Relations Board today ruled 3-2 that companies can be held liable for labor violations committed by franchises and contractors, the Washington Examiner reports. "With more than 2.87 million of the nation's workers employed through temporary agencies in August 2014, the board held that its previous joint employer standard has failed to keep pace with changes in the workplace and economic circumstances," the board said.

read more »

Restaurant Workers File Suit, Claim They Were Underpaid

Current and former employees filed suit against O’Charley’s and McDonald’s in separate federal wage-and-hour class action claims, stating they were underpaid. According to the Nashville Post, one current and two former Nashville-area employees allege they worked full shifts and attended training sessions at McDonald’s for which they were not paid. A former O’Charley’s server said he was paid $2.13 hour tip rate while doing untipped work and was denied overtime for working after closing time.

read more »

Court Square Series Offers 3 CLE Hours in Dyersburg, Jackson

Judge C. Creed McGinley and Judge J. Steven Stafford will speak at the annual Court Square CLE in Dyersburg, Sept. 17. Judge Allen Phillips will talk about his role on the Court of Workers' Compensation Claim at the Court Square CLE in Jackson. Both programs offer three hours of CLE.

read more »

Supreme Court Rules in Job Application Dispute

The Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a job applicant does not have a claim against a prospective employer when the employer fails to hire the person because he or she previously filed a workers’ compensation claim. In Kighwaunda M Yardley v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems LLC, Yardley asserted she was not hired for a new cleaning job at her place of employment because she had previously filed for workers' compensation. The court declined to recognize a cause of action for retaliatory failure to hire, explaining there is a fundamental difference between discharging an employee and refusing to hire a job applicant.

read more »

Bill Provides Protection for State National Guard Members

State Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, is introducing legislation that would provide immunity and personal liability protection for Tennessee National Guard members involved in protection during a terrorist attack, Nooga reports. “Our Tennessee National Guardsmen have become targets of terrorists, as demonstrated by the tragic events in Chattanooga,” Briggs said. The proposal comes one month after the July 16 shooting in Chattanooga that killed five service members. The bill is being developed in consultation with Gov. Bill Haslam and Adjutant General Max Haston, according to the paper.

read more »

New Chattanooga City Handbook Approved

The new handbook for Chattanooga city employees will include LGBT protections, despite efforts by one councilman to have them removed, Nooga reports. Councilman Chip Henderson wanted to replace the handbook’s nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies to mirror guidleines drafted by the Equal Employment Opporunity Commission. The city council unanimously adopted the new handbook after 18 months of putting the nearly 200-page guide together.

read more »

Chattanooga Councilman Wants To Revise Nondiscrimination Policy

Councilman Chip Henderson wants to remove nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies from Chattanooga’s city handbook, Nooga.com reports. Henderson would like the handbook to include guidelines written by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which are based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and do not mention sexual orientation or gender identity. Chattanooga’s city handbook currently includes policies that list sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

read more »

2nd Circuit Upholds Contraceptive Opt-Out

The opt-out process for religious nonprofits that do not want to provide contraceptive insurance coverage for employees under the Affordable Care Act does not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday. The challenge to the process was brought by four Catholic nonprofits, which argued it made them complicit in the delivery of contraceptive services. Six other federal appeals courts have issued similar rulings, either on the merits or by denying preliminary injunctions, the ABA Journal reports.

read more »

Stevenson Named Nashville's Emerging Legal Leader

Attorney Joycelyn A. Stevenson was among community leaders honored last night at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and YP Nashville's annual Nashville Emerging Leader Awards ceremony at Lipscomb University. Stevenson, a shareholder at Littler Mendelson, was named a leader in the legal services category. She practices labor and employment and business immigration law. The Tennessean has the full list of award winners.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »