News

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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Chattanooga Police Challenge Pay Disparity

A dozen Chattanooga police officers have sued the city over a compensation issue, alleging that some lower ranked officers are being paid more than their senior supervisors, the Times Free Press reports. The officers’ complaints are almost identical to a lawsuit filed in July by sergeants who also alleged age discrimination. The suits are having a significant impact on the city. Mayor Ron Littlefield recently told the city council that the legal action may result in delaying a $1.2 million pay increase planned this year for the police department.

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Employment in Legal Sector Back Up

September data, released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that 5,900 more people are employed in the legal sector now than were at the same point last year, and that the industry has seen a net gain of 2,900 jobs since the start of 2012. Friday's report raises the total number of people employed in the legal sector above 1.12 million, a figure that -- with the exception of July 2012 -- the industry had not reached since July 2009. Prior to the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, the legal industry regularly employed roughly 1.17 million people. The AmLaw Daily has more

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Legal Issues Surround Employer Health Care

Tennessee is one of 24 states that has not determined a position on whether to choose state, federal or federal/state partnership-operated health exchange to facilitate individual purchases of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, attorney Dick Cowart writes in a column. The individual and Medicaid mandates have been much in the news and in the courts already, but Cowart explains that the "employer mandate" will be the next hurdle, and some employers are worried. Read his column in the Tennessean.

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Report Calls for ‘Structural Change’ to Workers' Comp

Gov. Bill Haslam reportedly is gearing up for workers' compensation reform, saying he plans to propose legislation on the issue while drawing on a new report that makes a range of recommendations. The report, just released by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, recommends a "structural" change to the state's system, largely moving it out of the courts and altering a range of legal definitions. The Nashville Business Journal has more.

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Tennessee Wal-Mart Workers File Class Action

Women who work for Tennessee’s largest private employer filed a court case Tuesday claiming pay discrimination. The federal lawsuit against Wal-Mart follows an unsuccessful case that involved women coast-to-coast. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a nationwide class-action lawsuit last year in part because the women didn’t have enough in common to constitute a class. The Tennessee case is the first in an expected wave of smaller, regional suits, brought by civil rights attorneys with Nashville’s Barrett Johnston law firm. Nashville Public Radio has the story.

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ABA President to Keynote Nashville Economic Event

American Bar Association President Laurel Bellows will keynote the Nashville 2012 Economic Summit on Women on Oct. 22 and appear at a reception the night before. The Summit is sponsored by the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, and will be held at the Nashville Airport Marriott. Bellows will join two other headliners: Lilly Ledbetter, responsible for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and Deb Sofield, an executive speech and presentation coach. For information, contact Jane Powers.

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Real Property, Employment Law Headline October 'Journal'

The Tennessee Bar Journal this month studies the state’s real property rules and the available tools in an article by Chancellor Telford E. Forgety Jr., George W. Kuney and Devin P. Lyon. Also, Mark C. Travis explains the T.E.A.M Act, involving public sector employment law. President Jackie Dixon stresses the importance of civility, especially for lawyers, and columnists Don Paine, Edward G. Phillips and Monica J. Franklin update you on evidence, the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act, and Medicaid in Estate Recovery, respectively. Bill Haltom explores the thinking of jurors who in a recent case dressed alike or with a coordinated theme every day of the trial. Look in your mailbox for the October issue, or read the Journal online

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Jennings Sues UT, Alleges Age and Sex Discrimination

Former University of Tennessee Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings has filed a lawsuit against the school and athletic director Dave Hart, saying that she was forced to retire because they wanted to remodel the athletic department as a “good ol’ boys” club while replacing her with a younger man. Jennings, who had been with UT for 35 years, filed the suit Thursday with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. The Tennessean has the story

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Court: Employee Must Exhaust Benefit Review First

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that in a workers’ compensation case, Lacey Chapman v. DaVita Inc., the employee must exhaust the benefit review conference process before filing suit as required by state law. Learn more from the court

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Court: Time Stamp Overrides in Workers’ Comp Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court has reiterated that workers’ compensation lawsuits can be filed only after the state has officially declared that a formal review could not resolve the differences between employer and worker, according to the Nashville Post. The case in question stemmed from an employee who filed a suit two minutes before a Department of Labor workers’ comp specialist documented an impasse between the parties. Despite the difference in the time stamped on the two documents, the chancery court allowed the case to go forward based on plaintiff’s attorneys affidavits that the suit was filed after they received a copy of the state’s report. The high court said that was not sufficient and called on the legislature to address “the undignified spectacle of literally racing to secure perceived procedural advantages” in workers’ comp cases, and while doing so to also "resolve the issue of nonsynchronous clocks.”

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