News

Court Limits Challenges to Workers’ Comp Settlements

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that when the state Department of Labor approves a workers’ compensation settlement and accepts the statistical data form submitted with the settlement, a court may not find that the form is incomplete and set aside the settlement on those grounds. The high court also clarified procedures for appealing or attempting to set aside a department-approved settlement. The ruling came in the case of Christopher Furlough v. Spherion Atlantic Workforce LLC.

read more »

Workers’ Comp Gets First Review Thursday

The Haslam Administration's proposal for workers’ compensation overhaul may see its first legislative test next week when it comes before the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council on Thursday at 1 p.m. The council is set up to review and comment on bills but it cannot stop legislation. A TBA Workers’ Comp Working Group has been closely following the developments and is presently reviewing the latest draft of the legislation. The long-standing policy of the TBA is to oppose moving workers’ comp claims from the courts to a purely administrative process. The TBA hopes to continue playing a constructive role in whatever legislation emerges. The administration’s amendment would replace SB 200/HB 194. TBA members have voiced their views to many lawmakers. Among those commenting was LaFollette lawyer David H. Dunaway, who wrote this letter to the editor of the Tennessee Bar Journal.

read more »

'Guns in Trunks' Bill Likely to Pass Senate Tonight

Legislation granting handgun permit holders the right to keep firearms inside a motor vehicle is “virtually assured of passage on the Senate floor tonight.” In the House, the companion bill faces its first committee vote on Tuesday, Knoxnews reports. On the eve of the vote, however, Gov. Bill Haslam continues to express concerns not just about safety issues but that the bill could inadvertently limit the current right of non-student adults to keep guns locked in a car on school and university grounds, despite the fact they do not have permits. Haslam has not take a position on the bill, but says in deciding whether to sign it or not he will consider whether "it actually is more restrictive than the law is now."

read more »

Education, Jobs, TennCare Top Chamber’s Priority List

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce released its 2013 state legislative agenda yesterday, identifying its top priorities for Tennessee lawmakers. The Nashville Business Journal reports that improving primary and secondary education topped the list in terms of importance, followed by job creation, support for the federally funded TennCare/Medicaid expansion, workers’ compensation reform and immigration reform.

read more »

Senate Judiciary Has Eventful Early Day

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee today recommended for action three significant measures. The constitutional amendment to create a new method of selecting Supreme Court and appellate judges through gubernatorial nomination, legislative confirmation and retention elections (SJR 2) cleared by a vote of 8 to 1. Legislation to codify comparative fault and limit joint and several liability (SB 56) was adopted by a 5 to 4 vote. Finally, the bill sponsored by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey to require employers to permit employees to have guns locked in their vehicles (SB 142) moved out by a vote of 8 to 0 with one abstention, despite business opposition.

The Associated Press reported this afternoon that Lt. Governor Ramsey and Republican members of the committee met with Gov. Bill Haslam for nearly an hour on the gun issue before taking up the bill.

read more »

Court Asked to Review Presidential Appointments

The issue of President Barack Obama’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, as a nursing home company on Monday asked the court to block a board order. Though Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg denied the company’s application late yesterday, the company has now filed its petition with Justice Antonin Scalia, The Blog of Legal Times reports. If the court hears the challenge it will be the first opportunity to consider the constitutionality of the appointments, which were invalidated last month by a lower court. That decision found that the appointments – defended by the administration as traditional recess appointments – were an unconstitutional use of executive power because the Senate was in session when the new members were named.

read more »

New Journal Looks at Consumer Protection Cuts, More

In the February Tennessee Bar Journal, James M. Davis covers the effects updates to the TCPA had on relief available to consumers and businesses. Steven W. Feldman analyzes employee handbooks and makes the distinction between employee contractual rights and workplace policies. Columnists cover differences in state and federal pleading standards, demonstrative evidence and long-term care planning.

read more »

Haslam to Unveil Sweeping Workers’ Comp Changes

A new, independent state agency would oversee all aspects of Tennessee’s workers’ compensation system, including appeals now heard by the courts, under proposed legislation being drafted by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration. A Haslam spokesman declined to discuss specifics and said details would be released after a final bill is filed, possibly this week. But a 67-page working draft obtained by The Tennessean indicates Haslam is considering major changes to the 94-year-old system. The proposals appear similar to those recommended by a Virginia consultant who was hired to review the state’s system last year.

read more »

Senators Announce Principles to Guide Immigration Overhaul

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has reached agreement on principles that could serve as the basis for sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. The outline calls for creating a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants in the country, securing the border, establishing a better tracking system for visa holders, creating a more secure employment verification system, reforming the green card program, and creating an agricultural worker program. Knoxnews.com has more on the proposal.

read more »

Worker’s Comp Law Applies to Temporary Employees

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled yesterday that an employee of a temporary agency who is injured on the job, but not returned to work by the agency at a wage equal to or greater than the pre-injury wage, may obtain workers' compensation benefits up to six times the medical impairment rating. In Timmy Dale v. Dyer’s Employment Agency, the court found that the statutory language does not distinguish between permanent and temporary employees, therefore because the employer did not return the employee to work, offer him an opportunity to work, or terminate him for misconduct, benefits apply.

read more »

Court Re-Affirms Reimbursement Limits In Worker’s Comp Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed two prior rulings in which it held an employer’s subrogation right against an employee’s recovery from a third party in a negligence case does not include the amount of future medical benefits be provided to the employer. In Joshua Cooper v. Logistics Insight Corp., Cooper sought workers compensation benefits from his company MasterStaff after being assigned to work at ProLogistics, Inc and being injured by a ProLogistics employee. After winning his negligence case against ProLogistics, Cooper reimbursed MasterStaff for the medical expenses paid on his behalf. MasterStaff then asserted that the settlement did not dispose of all the claims regarding future medical expenses. 

read more »

NFIB Supports Workers’ Comp Revisions

The Tennessee chapter of National Federal of Independent Business (NFIB) said this week that it will support reforms to the state’s workers’ compensation system. State Director Jim Brown said in a news release that the organization looks forward to working with Gov. Bill Haslam and members of the General Assembly to improve workers’ compensation. The Nashville Business Journal has more. 

read more »

Iowa Court Backs Boss Who Fired "Irresistible" Worker

An all-male high court in Iowa ruled in favor of a dentist who fired his female assistant because he found her attractive, and he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage. The woman filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, but the court ruled unanimously that an employer can legally fire a worker seen as an “irresistible attraction” since they were motivated by feelings and emotions, not gender. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story.

read more »

Court: Memphis Teacher Improperly Terminated

The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed a Court of Appeals decision and unanimously ruled to reinstate the trial court’s judgment awarding tenured Memphis City Schools teacher Saundra Thomas back pay and damages after the board of education improperly terminated her. Thompson’s suit alleged violation of the Tenure Act and right to due process guaranteed by the 14th Amendment after the board did not provide written charges or an opportunity for a hearing prior to the termination.

read more »

Court to Review 2 New Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review to two cases. The first, a civil case, looks at whether a time-share salesperson is entitled to unemployment compensation. The second, a criminal case, calls for interpretation of the statute governing fabrication of evidence when the tampering occurs before police learn a crime may have been committed. The Raybin Perky Hotlist looks at the cases and offers a prediction as to how they may be decided. 

read more »

Federal Employees Get Relief on Discrimination Appeals

The justices on Monday ruled unanimously that federal employees appealing certain discrimination rulings from the Merit Systems Protection Board may take their cases directly to the district courts rather than be forced to appeal to the Washington, D.C.-based Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Writing for the majority Justice Elena Kagan chastised the federal government for trying to complicate the appeals process. “It would be hard,” she wrote, “to dream up a more round-about way” of setting up judicial review than the one laid out by the government. SCOTUSblog reports

read more »

Court Will Not to Hear Pay Equity Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court will not hear an appeal filed on behalf of Washington County Clerk and Master Brenda W. Sneyd after her lawsuit against the county was dismissed, by the State Court of Appeals, the Johnson City Press reports. Sneyed originally  filed suit in Sept. 2010 in Washington County Chancery Court to request back pay for not receiving the same 10 percent pay raise as her counterpart. 

read more »

Chattanooga Attorney Inducted into American College of Trial Lawyers

Rosemarie Hill of Chattanooga-based law firm Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C., was recently inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL), the Hamilton Count Herald reports. The ACTL was established in 1950 and is dedicated to maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice, and the ethics of the profession. Hill is head of Chambliss’ labor and employment group.

read more »

Miller & Martin PLLC Announces New Leadership

Chattanooga-based law firm Miller & Martin PLLC recently selected John R. Bode to chair the firm’s Labor & Employment department and John Y. “Jay” Elliot III to assume the role of department vice chair. "We are delighted to have each of these talented individuals serve as leaders of our firm. Their depth of expertise and dedication to outstanding client service will greatly support the continued success of the firm," said Miller & Martin Chairman Jim Haley. Read more in the Cleveland Daily Banner.

read more »

Ogletree Deakins Announces Plans for International Expansion

Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart will soon open two offices in Europe, the ABA Journal reports. The firm, which specializes in labor and employment law, has offices in Nashville and Memphis and plans to open the Berlin office Dec. 1 and the London office soon after. The move is a significant step toward greater global practice by the firm, which presently has no other international offices, according to its website.

read more »

One Idea: Workers' Comp Would Bypass Courts

Since Gov. Bill Haslam asked during the 2012 legislative session that major changes in workers' comp be delayed until 2013, a lot of work has been done on it, columnist Tom Humphrey writes. Among recommendations made by consultants retained by the state is a proposal, broadly embraced by business groups, that would take trial courts out of the system. Haslam says he is looking at that option "real seriously" and it would be a significant overhaul. The consultants propose creation of "ombudsmen" in each region — 31 is a suggested number — to try and resolve claims through mediation. If there's still a dispute, the case would go to "workers' compensation judges" — about 20 — overseen by a "chief judge." The Knoxville News Sentinel has more

read more »

Red Bank Commissioners Settle 2 of 5 Lawsuits

Red Bank commissioners have settled two of the five lawsuits filed against them in federal court between 2010 and 2011 in the wake of the controversial firing of Chief Larry Sneed, the Times Free Press reports. The commission voted 3-1 to settle suites filed by former police officers Bradley Hannon and Rebecca Chauncey Morgan for $36,000 and $21,000, respectively. The city is still battling lawsuits from Sneed, officer Isaac Cooper, and officer Stephen Satterwhite.

read more »

Memphis Non-Discrimination Ordinance Passes, Includes Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Amendment

After weeks of debate, the Memphis City Council approved on third and final reading the non-discrimination city ordinance that includes an amendment prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Daily News reports. The council also approved a resolution that the city’s personnel director cannot consider sexual orientation or gender identity in personnel decisions.

read more »

Court to Decide if Racial Slurs Among 'Friends' a Problem

A Utah judge rejected claims that a company should not be tried for creating a hostile work enviornment because, its attorneys argued, racist jokes and repeated offensive racial epithets on its job sites were just jokes among friends. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had filed a racial harassment suit against Holmes & Holmes Industrial Inc. after presenting undisputed evidence that white supervisors repeatedly used offensive racial epithets and told racists jokes to African American workers. Holmes & Holmes’ lawyers, however, asked Utah Federal Judge Dale Kimball to dismiss the case and sanction the EEOC on the grounds that the African American workers did not find the use of the slurs offensive and were friends with the supervisor. Judge Kimball rejected the motion and sanction request, and the case will go to trial. The National Law Journal has the story.

read more »

Haslam: Workers Comp Reform Still Under Discussion

Gov. Haslam said this week that he has not made a final decision about what to include in a workers’ compensation reform package and is weighing all options, but revealed that he is seriously considering removing disputes from the court system. Outside consultants recently submitted a report to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development suggesting the same idea. The Nashville Business Journal has the story.

read more »