News

Union Appeals Ruling on Who Controls Contracts

A Nashville public employees union has appealed to the state Supreme Court to settle what it says is a split in who in the school district has authority over non-licensed support staff – the director of schools or the school board. A Chancery Court judge ruled in favor of the union in its lawsuit, but Metro Schools won its appeal, the Tennessean reports.

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Senate Votes to Nullify Nashville Local-Hire Bill

The state Senate on Monday passed a bill to nullify a local-hire rule that requires at least 40 percent of work hours on certain Nashville construction projects go to Davidson County residents. Nashville residents in August approved the measure, and the move to nullify it drew criticism from Nashville Democrat Sen. Jeff Yarbro. “I think that we should be a little more reluctant than this to go in and overturn the will of the voters,” he said. Attorney General Hebert Slatey issued an opinion in October stating that the rule violates state law. Read more from The Tennessean

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Summary of Recent LGBT Restriction Bills

The Tennessean offers a summary of half a dozen LGBT-related bills regarding marriage rights, defining gender roles and bathroom access. The list includes the "Natural Marriage" bill (HB 1412/SB 1437), the Counselor Protection bill (HB 1850/SB 1556) and the Birth Gender bill (HB 2600/SB 2275).

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Cheddar's Reaches Settlement in Sexual Harassment Suit

A Memphis Cheddar’s restaurant settled a lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that claimed the restaurant maintained a hostile work environment. The suit also stated Cheddar’s managers asked employees for sexual favors, WREG reports. The settlement requires the restaurant to pay $450,000 to 15 people and pay for the maintenance of workplace cameras.

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In This Issue: Retaliatory Discharge, Advanced Care Planning and Dale Bumpers

This month the Tennessee Bar Journal's employment law column by Edward Phillips and Brandon Morrow covers retaliatory discharge in "Badges and Blown Whistles: Recent Retaliatory Discharge Actions in Tennessee." Monica Franklin collaborates with Dr. Gregory Phelps in her elder law column, "Advanced Care Planning: When Law and Medicine Intersect."  Humor columnist Bill Haltom writes about the late Dale Bumpers, the small-town lawyer who defended Bill Clinton before the Senate in the 1999 impeachment trial. Read these and the rest of the February issue.

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Supreme Court Debates Teacher Tenure Law

“Should teachers be given benefits if a hearing challenging the possible firing is delayed past 30 days?” The Tennessean reports Tennessee Supreme Court justices are weighing that question as they review the state law that sets procedures for how school boards must handle the firing of tenured teachers. State law currently requires that a hearing “shall” not be set later than 30 days after a teacher asks for it. The debate stems from a case brought by a former Memphis high school teacher who did not receive a hearing until a year after her suspension.

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Tennessee Fashion Law: Protecting Brands and More

The TBA will offer a first-of-its-kind Tennessee Fashion Law CLE on March 31 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Topics include protecting fashion brands through copyright, regulations that govern merchandize labeling and disclosure, and employment issues unique to fashion law. The course, scheduled from 1 to 4:15 p.m., is approved for three CLE credits.

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'Workers' Comp Opt-Out' Bill Dead

The legislation known as the "Workers' Comp Opt-Out" bill is dead for this session. The Tennessee Employee Injury Benefit Alternative legislation, SB721, HB997, by Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, was taken off notice this week. Proponents of the bill stated that at this time they do not plan to run it this legislative session. A hearing on the bill scheduled for Feb. 10 in a House committee has been cancelled.   

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Judge Overturns Ruling in Nashville Schools' Dispute with Union

Nashville's former director of schools legally suspended an agreement with the Service Employees International Union in 2011, a recent decision from Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dinkins says. The opinion overturns a lower court decision that said Jesse Register did not have the authority to suspend the the labor negotiations policy that represented non-licensed employees. An attorney for SEIU said he plans to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Read more from The Tennessean.

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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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