News

Investigation Called for Full-time Pay for Part-time Attorney

A probe has been called for in the case of an attorney employed by Shelby County who also runs a law practice in Mississippi, with fellow county workers complaining that the lawyer is getting paid a full-time salary for part-time work, the Commercial Appeal reports. The complaint alleges that Martin Zummach earns a salary of $80,000 per year and receives benefits as a public information officer and legal adviser to Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos, but doesn’t maintain an office at Juvenile Court. A complaint was filed on Jan. 13 and a local attorney is looking into the matter, with a report expected as early as this week.
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Harassment Suit Seeks $9.3 Million from Knox County

A Knox County woman is seeking $9.3 million in a suit filed today that claims her boss at the county procurement office sexually harassed her, Knoxnews reports. Janice Orr originally filed a formal harrassment complaint against her boss, Hugh Holt, in August of last year. After a series of interviews with county employees, the investigative body recommended Holt be terminated in October. Holt was then immediately hired by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department at a higher salary.
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Winfrey Merges Firm with Morgan and Morgan; Will Lead Employment Practice Group

Brian Winfrey, founder of The Winfrey Firm, is merging his firm into the Nashville office of Morgan and Morgan, where he will launch and lead a statewide labor and employment practice group, the Nashville Post reports. Winfrey will also work with Morgan and Morgan attorneys in other states in the employee rights group. Winfrey is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and currently serves as secretary of the Tennessee Bar Association.
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Lawmaker Requests AG Opinion on Parks Privatization

Tennessee Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, has requested an opinion from Attorney General Herbert Slatery III on whether Gov. Haslam’s plans to privatize hospitality services at parks violate state procedures. The Times Free Press reports that Bowling, whose district includes the Falls Creek Falls state park, asked for the opinion at the request of park employees.
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Tennessee Supreme Court Rules in Teacher Tenure Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday ruled against Rogelynn Emory, a former tenured Memphis teacher who was fired in 2005, the Tennessean reports. The case centered on whether the Memphis City Schools Board of Education (now Shelby County Board of Education) had potentially violated the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act by holding Emory’s appeal hearing more than 30 days after her suspension. The court’s ruling didn’t address whether the law requires, or merely recommends, that a termination hearing should be held within 30 days after termination proceedings begin. Rather, the court said that because Emory didn’t raise concerns about the timing during her hearing before the Memphis school board, she was barred from arguing it on appeal. 
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Help Needed Tomorrow for Memphis Veterans’ Clinic

A free legal clinic for veterans will be held Tuesday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Memphis Veterans Center, 1407 Union Ave., 11th floor. Volunteers are still needed, especially in the practice areas of criminal defense, family law and employment law. The clinic is co-sponsored by the Memphis Bar Association and Memphis Area Legal Services and takes place the second Tuesday of the month to assist veterans with legal advice. For more information and to volunteer, contact Jake Dickerson, 901-577-8236.

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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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Workers' Comp Court Adopts New Rules, Revises Others

The Tennessee Court of Workers' Compensation Claims has adopted several new rules and revised others, according to a blog post by the judges. Among the changes is a new rule regarding promptness for court. Under Rule 1.03, those running late for a scheduled court appearance should alert both the staff and opposing counsel. Failure to do so may lead the court to proceed without the attorney. A second new rule, Rule 2.03, requires notice to the court clerk and the judge’s legal assistant or staff attorney when a case settles prior to the hearing date. Finally, the court has revised procedures in Rule 4.03 for seeking a disqualification or recusal of a judge and in Rule 8.04 for inquiring about a status conference. The court also reports that there will not be settlement approvals on Jan. 5 and 6 due to a judicial conference.

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Vanderbilt to Study Impact of LGBT Policies

Researchers at Vanderbilt University will examine how public policy impacts the health and economics of LGBT people, Nashville Public Radio reports. Funding for the study will come from a $400,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. According to the university’s proposal, researchers will compare data across states to study issues such as how North Carolina’s transgender bathroom bill has impacted economic livelihood, or how non-discrimination policies impact diversity in the workforce. They also will look at the impact of legalizing same-sex marriage and passing laws designed to protect religious freedom. 

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Workers’ Comp Judge to Retire

The Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims has announced that Judge Jim Umsted, who serves on the bench in Memphis, will retire soon. However, he will continue to assist on a part-time basis with the review and approval of settlements. The court and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation expressed gratitude to Umsted for his years of service. Applicants to fill the post can get information from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

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State Still Slow Paying Unemployment Claims

For the past eight months, Tennessee has failed to meet a federal mandate to pay unemployment insurance claims within 21 days of approval. In the last month, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development processed 12,000 claims within 21 days and has 9,000 claims pending that are greater than 21 days old. For its part, the department blames the delays on upgrades to its online system that were made last spring. They say issues should be resolved by mid-January, WBIR reports.

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Law Firms Join Statewide Anti-Discrimination Coalition

Nearly 200 Tennessee-based businesses have joined Tennessee Thrives, a new anti-discrimination coalition that will “serve as a watchdog for the General Assembly,” the Nashville Business Journal reports. Among the group are five law firms: Baker Donelson, Bass, Berry & Sims, Bone McAllester Norton, Frost Brown Todd, and Waller. The coalition hopes to educate and unite businesses across the state on potential legislation – such as North Carolina’s bathroom bill – that could adversely impact Tennessee’s economy. The coalition will not directly lobby legislators but will rely on individual members to do so. Members are asked to sign a statement that they support an “inclusive workforce statewide, regardless of race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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Trump to Tap Tennessee Fast Food CEO for Labor Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate restaurant chain executive Andy Puzder to be Labor Secretary, the Tennessean reports. Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns fast food restaurants Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, worked as a Trump campaign adviser and is a major critic of what he calls unnecessary federal regulations. A second story highlights five things to know about Puzder, who worked as a corporate lawyer before making his name as a turnaround specialist. Puzder recently relocated to the Nashville area and is in the process of moving the company’s headquarters to Williamson County.

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Workers’ Comp Court Adopts New Rules

The Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation recently issued new rules governing deadlines for filing wage statements, medical records and interrogatories as well as responding to requests for expedited hearings; filing of documents previously filed with a mediator; obligations on the party opposing a request for expedited hearing; use of e-signatures; and use of causation letters.

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State Seeking Workers’ Comp. Judge

The State of Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is seeking a workers’ compensation judge in West Tennessee. The successful candidate will be appointed to an initial term that will run through June 30, 2019, and then be eligible to serve an additional three full terms. Applicants must have a valid, active Tennessee law license, be at least 30 years old and have at least five years of experience in Tennessee workers’ compensation matters. Send the required application and attachments to Janie.L.Dorris@tn.gov by Jan. 6. For more information about the position contact Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Administrator Abbie Hudgens.

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Online CLE for General Practitioners Now Available

Sessions from the TBA’s annual General Practice CLE are now available online. Topics include child welfare laws, domestic assault cases, law office dynamics, wrongful termination, writing skills and more. See the full listing here.

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Judge Blocks Obama Overtime Pay Rule

A federal judge today granted an emergency injunction against an Obama administration rule that would require mandatory overtime pay for more than four million workers, the Hill reports. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant in Texas agreed with 21 states and a coalition of business groups that the rule, which was set to take effect Dec. 1, likely contradicted Congress-passed labor laws. The rule would have doubled to $47,500 the amount a worker must earn to be exempt from overtime pay.

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CLE Explores New Rules for Wellness Programs

New rules from the EEOC impacting what incentive employers may offer to employees who provide medical information as part of a wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act take effect Jan. 1. Nashville lawyer Fredrick Bissinger, with Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones, will cover the do’s and don’ts of the new rules at a webcast CLE on Dec. 6. Get more information or register online.

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Judge Blocks Union ‘Persuader Rule’

A Texas-based federal judge yesterday blocked the Obama administration’s “persuader rule,” which would have required third-party lawyers and other labor consultants to publicly disclose work they do for companies related to union organization efforts, even if they do not contact employees directly. U.S. Judge Sam Cummings finalized a temporary injunction he issued against the rule in June. Cummings said the rule oversteps the Labor Department’s authority under federal law. The Nashville Business Journal has more on the decision.

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Court Raises Doubts About Temporary Presidential Picks

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday raised doubts about the temporary appointment of a former labor official in a case that could limit the president’s power to fill top government posts, the Associated Press reports. The justices are considering whether Lafe Solomon was allowed to serve as acting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board while he was waiting for Senate confirmation to fill the role permanently. A federal appeals court ruled last year that Solomon’s tenure was invalid. A ruling from the high court is expected by the end of June. WRCB-TV has the story.

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Appeals Court Upholds City’s Right to Cut COLAs

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed a district court ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed against the city of Chattanooga by retired firefighters and police officers over reforms to their pension plans, the Times Free Press reports. U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Collier had granted the city’s motion for summary judgment agreeing that cost-of-living adjustments did not constitute a vested right or contract between the city and its employees. The appellate panel found that, “The retirees do not have a contractual right to a fixed three-percent COLA, because the City Code does not bind the fund to the fixed COLA.”

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Workers’ Compensation Court Holding Listening Sessions

The Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims will hold a series of listening sessions across the state for members of the bar and public to weigh in on the new court system and to suggest areas for improvement. Chief Judge Kenneth M. Switzer and Brian Holmes, director of Mediation and Ombudsmen Services of Tennessee, will host sessions in Murfreesboro on Nov. 15, Jackson on Nov. 29, Memphis on Nov. 30, Nashville on Dec. 1, Chattanooga on Dec. 7, Cookeville on Dec. 9, Kingsport on Dec. 13 and Knoxville on Dec. 14. Those unable to attend in person may submit written comments. The March issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal looked at the new court.

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Regulators Allow Beauty App to Operate

The Tennessee Cosmetology and Barber Examiners Board has dropped its complaint against Belle, a new app that connects users with licensed beauty and fitness professionals, Forbes reports. The board had threatened the company with a $500 fine and a cease-and-desist order for lacking a cosmetology license. The board ultimately decided Belle was a technology company and not a cosmetology shop, and closed the complaint. It also dropped a complaint against a similar app, Stylist on Call. Belle says it plans to work with legislators next year to ensure regulations “keep pace with evolving markets and technology.”

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EEOC Sues Nashville Company for Same-Sex Harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit Friday against Nashville-based manufacturer Centurion Products, accusing it of violating federal law by allowing same-sex sexual harassment at its East Germantown plant. According to the compliant, a male supervisor continually made sexually charged insults and innuendos at other male employees, creating a “hostile work environment,” the Nashville Business Journal reports. One employee also alleges that his termination was the direct result of his refusal to identify the defendant to other supervisors.

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Granny Pods, Employment Law … and Setting Up an Office at the Wal-Firm

Pick up your copy of the current Tennessee Bar Journal for some weekend reading and you'll find a variety of subjects by our crackerjack columnists. Edward Phillips and Brandon Morrow write about subjective beliefs in two recent age discrimination cases and Monica Franklin looks at the new “granny pods” that are now legal in Tennessee. Nick McCall reviews Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis and humor columnist Bill Haltom considers setting up his office at the Wal-Firm. Read the entire October issue here.

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