The Law at Work

The Public Employee Political Freedom Act 

Free Speech Protections Beyond the First Amendment

We’ve just completed another election cycle with politics — for better or worse — dominating the news, advertisements and general discourse. Our mailboxes, inboxes and airwaves have been flooded with election propaganda. While this can be overwhelming, even exhausting, these elections (and the publicity that precedes them) ensure that our republic remains a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Axiomatic in the concept of representative democracy is that “the people” — the constituents, those electing these governing officials — must have the ability to communicate with their local, state and national elected officials. Without the ability to communicate their views and concerns, citizens are left powerless to influence those in the governing bodies. But what about when a public employer takes umbrage when an employee exercises this right? What happens when communicating with a public official impacts one’s job?

read more »

A Gentle Reminder on THRA Claims: No Right to a Jury in a Circuit Court

A recent decision from the Tennessee Court of Appeals, authored by Judge Goldin, reminds employment litigators of a key distinction in state law: there is no right to a jury trial on Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA) claims in circuit court. If you want a jury, though, fret not. Just be sure your case is in chancery court. In this column, we’ll review some state constitutional law principles and take a road trip through Red Bank, Lafollette, and finally, out west to Jackson.

Tennessee is one of only a handful of states to distinguish between courts of equity (chancery courts) and courts of law (in our state, circuit courts). Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey and South Carolina are the others. For many types of cases it matters not whether they are filed in chancery or in circuit. The rights and remedies are the same. However, while THRA claims can be filed in either court, only chancery will guarantee a right to a jury.

read more »

Public Chapter 467: Public Employers and the Battle Over Gun Rights

A few years ago, we authored an article, “Guns in Trunks: An Erosion of Tennessee’s Employment-at-will Rule?”[1] which discussed the “guns in trunks” legislation and the interaction between Second Amendment rights and a private employer’s ability to terminate and/or discipline employees who violated a no firearm policy.

read more »