News

In This Issue: A Twist on DUI, Family Law and Torts

You know how DUI works -- at least the kind involving alcohol, but what about when the driver is impaired by drugs? Circuit Judge Tom Wright and UT Law student Christopher Graham explain in the January Tennessee Bar Journal what's different about that and what you need to know. (You can also learn more on the same subject from this upcoming TBA CLE webcast.) TBJ family law columnist Marlene Eskind Moses covers employment benefits as separate property and John Day writes about unintended consequences in tort law (Breaking Bad fans will especially enjoy this take on it). Humor columnist Bill Haltom questions the legislature's interest in events on the campus of UT-Knoxville. Read the entire issue.

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No Overtime Pay for Lawyer Required to Review 13,000 Documents

The ABA Journal reports a New York lawyer required to review 13,000 documents will not receive overtime pay because a judge said the lawyer was using “legal judgment.” Federal and New York state law do not require overtime pay for licensed attorneys engaged in the practice of law. Attorney William Henig said he did not exercise legal judgment while reviewing the documents for about two months in 2012 while working as a temporary contract lawyer for Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Henig was paid $35 an hour. (This story originally appeared in the The New York Law Journal, sub. req.)

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Lawsuit Claims Logan's Roadhouse Stiffed Employees

At least half a dozen Chattanooga-area current and former employees of Logan’s Roadhouse have joined a class-action lawsuit against the Nashville-based restaurant chain. The employees, along with more than 3,000 nationwide, say Logan’s stiffed them by having them spend more than 20 percent of their time doing non-tipped side work while clocked in as tipped employees. The employees say they were only paid $2.13 an hour and claim the company forced them to falsely report “phantom tips” to make it look like they were being paid the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Logan’s denies the lawsuit’s allegations, the Times Free Press reports

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Discrimination Suit Against Farmers Granted Class Action Status

A California federal judge certified a class action status to a discrimination suit in which a group of female current and former attorneys of Farmers Insurance claim the company paid men higher salaries. Lynne Coates, who had worked for Farmers for a total of nine years, filed the original complaint in which she alleged Farmers was paying less-experienced male employees a larger salary than her own. Twelve attorneys have joined the suit. Read more from the Insurance Journal.

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UT Reaches $750K Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit

The University of Tennessee announced Monday it had reached a $750,000 settlement with its former associate director of sports medicine and two ex-Lady Volunteers strength coaches in a gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. Jenny Moshak, Heather Mason and Collin Schlosser claimed in the 2012 lawsuit that they received less compensation than employees holding similar positions and performing comparable tasks for men's teams. School officials said that "the university unequivocally denies that any of the three former employees suffered any discrimination or retaliation." Read more from the Associated Press.

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Auditors Question State's Readiness for New Merit-Pay System

State auditors and top Human Resources Department officials are sparring over the application of Gov. Bill Haslam's new merit-pay system, The Times Free Press reports. The system replaced across-the-board pay raises for 40,000-plus executive-branch employees. Auditors question if managers and supervisors were adequately trained to deliver objective evaluations. "We feel very confident that our learning initiatives are competent and effective," Human Resources Commissioner Rebecca Hunter said during hearing on the audit in December.

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Lawmakers' HR Policy Needed, Experts Say

Experts tell The Tennessean that the state legislature needs a human resources system to hold lawmakers accountable. HR officials who work with lawmakers have no power when it comes to discipline, instead lawmakers’ colleagues are responsible for action. “You have more likelihood that somebody could abuse those systems because there is not a strict course of accountability to keep that in check,” said Allison Duke, associate dean of Lipscomb University’s graduate business program. 

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Appeals Court: Judge Did Not Follow Proper Legal Standard

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled Chancellor Clarence "Eddie" Pridemore did not follow proper legal standard when he tossed out a Knox County teacher’s lawsuit against her boss. Susan Weaver Jones is suing Superintendent Jim McIntyre because she claims her transfer in 2012 from an instructional coach to classroom teacher was a demotion. The court said Pridemore failed to weigh only whether Jones had enough proof to mount a successful case. "...In our judgment, Jones has alleged facts sufficient to state a claim for relief," Appellate Judge D. Michael Swiney wrote in the opinion. The case was returned to Pridemore’s court.  Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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State Denies Metro's Employment and Wage Records Requests

The Tennessean reports the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development denied two records requests by Metro Nashville officials for wage and employment data. Metro officials are seeking the information for use in its plans to create a new affordable housing policy. State attorneys argue that the data is confidential information that state labor workers cannot disclose under federal law. “We’re trying to create affordable housing where the jobs are, and for us to really understand where the jobs are, we need the most up-to-date data. And they’re not willing to share that data with us,” Metro Planning Department Executive Director Doug Sloan said.

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Department of Labor Files Suit Against Convergys

The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Convergys Customer Management Group Inc., which employs more than 900 people in Chattanooga. Department of Labor officials are seeking information about the company's affirmative action plan at facilities in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina. “Convergys knew when it became a federal contractor that it would be held to equal employment standards," Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Patricia A. Shiu said. Read more from Nooga

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Chattanooga Wins Pension Suit

A federal court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by four retired Chattanooga police officers and firefighters that challenged the city's decision to reduce the cost-of-living adjustments to their pensions. U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Collier granted the city's motion for summary judgment in a decision issued today, the Times Free Press reports. In his ruling, Collier rejected that claim, agreeing with the city that the cost-of-living adjustment was not a contract.

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Age Discrimination in Job Market Bigger Issue for Women

Recent studies from the National Bureau of Economic Research show that older workers who are unemployed are often discriminated against in their job search, according to Five Thirty Eight Economics, and that it's worse for older women than men. One of the study's authors, David Neumark, speculates that anti-discrimination laws actually make it harder to prove the discrimination for older women. Sex is a protected class in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while age is covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, he said. "Because different laws cover different categories, those who fall into both may also have a harder time proving they’ve been discriminated against."

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Frost Brown Todd, Littler Receive Top Marks for Workplace Equality

Cincinnati-based law firm Frost Brown Todd and San Francisco-based law firm Littler Mendelson – both with offices in Nashville – received a 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 14th Annual Scorecard on Workplace Equality. The firms join Baker Donelson and Nissan North America Inc. as legal workplaces in Tennessee to earn the distinction. The 2016 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) is a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality.

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Memphis Law Firm Praised for LGBT Equality

The Memphis-based law firm of Baker Donelson has been hailed as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality,” according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The firm, along with Nissan North America Inc., headquarted in Franklin, Tennessee, received a perfect score in the organization’s annual Corporate Equality Index. Read more from the Memphis Business Journal.

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UT Faculty Senate Votes to Condemn Privatization Plan

University of Tennessee’s Faculty Senate voted unanimously Monday to condemn Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed privatization plan based upon current information, The Daily Beacon reports. “There has been no evidence provided to support the benefits to campus life of any significant cost savings of further outsourcing the facility and management services,” read the resolution in part.

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Madison County Sued by Former Employees

Two former Madison County Criminal Justice Complex nurses – Ovester Powell and Chloe Mercer – filed a lawsuit saying the county owes them unpaid “straight and overtime” compensation, The Jackson Sun reports. Powell and Mercer both worked in various county detention facilities, including the jail.

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Former Magistrate Files $500,000 Discrimination Suit

Former magistrate judge Elizabeth Gentzler filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Hamilton County and members of the Juvenile Court, The Times Free Press reports. Gentzler, whose employment was terminated in September 2014, claims Judge Rob Philyaw and administrator Sam Mairs created a hostile environment for her by making homophobic jokes and transferring her without warning to Child Support Court.

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Memphis City Employees Suing Over Pension Cuts

Unions representing Memphis city employees filed a lawsuit asking a judge to stop planned pension cuts for newer employees, WREG reports. "The City Council just arbitrarily selected 7 1/2 years and there was basis for that decision other than just pick a number," Danny Todd with the International Firefighters Association said. The pension cuts are expected to take place next July.

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Nashville Eliminates Criminal Check from Job Forms

Nashville’s Metro government will eliminate a criminal background question from city job applications following a grassroots campaign that netted nearly 10,000 signatures. The “ban the box” movement said it was unfair to eliminate candidates with criminal records in the first stage of an application process, Nashville Public Radio reports.

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Knoxville Attorney Addresses Benefits Disputes in Editorial

Knoxville attorney Sam Doak of Arnett, Draper and Hagood writes in the Knoxville News Sentinel that Tennessee’s relatively new workers’ compensation law – effective July 1, 2014 – is causing some confusion when it comes to how medical and other temporary benefits are addressed. “The point is that the parties need to think ahead, be smart about what issues they dispute and be prepared to appear before a judge to justify their position with admissible evidence if they cannot reach a compromise,” Doak writes. 

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Governor Names Members to Law-Related Bodies

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has announced a series of appointments to state boards and commissions, including several law-related bodies, WRCBTV.com reports. Among the appointments are Chris Hodges of Nashville and Ward Phillips of Knoxville to the Board of Judicial Conduct; Niesha Wolfe of Clarksville and Mary Wagner of Memphis to the Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission; and Jason Denton of Lebanon, Lynn Lawyer of Nashville and Jerry Mayo of Brentwood to the Advisory Council on Workers' Compensation.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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." 

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