A recent ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court opens the door for more litigation by employees in the Volunteer State. This ruling means it will be much easier for an employee to sue an employer for discrimination in state court than in federal court.
On September 20, 2010, Tennessee’s highest court suddenly ruled that a different standard will apply to summary judgments from now on. Summary judgments are often used by employers to nip discrimination suits in the bud. When the employer wins an early summary judgment, the employee’s lawsuit cannot go forward. This is often the first line of defense that an employer has against an employee’s claim of illegal discrimination.
In Gossett v. Tractor Supply Co., the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that an employee had the right to sue the employer for illegal discrimination simply because she was reassigned after filing a complaint of sexual harassment against her supervisor. This was true, no matter how reasonable and justified the employer’s reason for the reassignment was.
This groundbreaking decision authored by Justice Janice Holder overturned the previous ruling in Allen v. McPhee, where a female employee was reassigned after complaining of harassment “to protect her from any further sexual harassment.”
Until now, Tennessee has used the McDonnell Douglas framework for determining summary judgments, the same legal test used by federal courts. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that when an employer (more…)
A two-year investigation recently revealed that a tree-trimming company had violated federal and Tennessee minimum wage laws. The investigation was triggered by a dissatisfied employee alerting the Dept. of Labor. This resulted in ABC Professional Tree Services being ordered to pay $1.8 million in overtime pay, to 2,501 employees.
The minimum wage by workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act is $5.15 per hour. This covers a basic 40 hour week. If an employee is required to work for more than 40 hours per week, they are then entitled to time-and-one-half for each hour over.
The investigation took place over two years, from August 2004 to August 2006. It was found that ABC Professional Tree Services had fallen foul to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as violating minimum wage laws throughout 16 states.
The company is currently paying a total of $1,801,507 to employees in Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, North Caroline, Tennessee, South Carolina, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, according to the US Dept of Law.
“We are pleased that we wee able to help these workers get the back pay they deserve,” Elaine L. Chao, the U.S. Secretary of Labor said. “The department will continue our efforts to ensure that employers are paying workers properly,” she went on to say.
ABC Professional Tree Services provides utilities with tree cutting and trimming services, clearing branches from around power lines. It also specializes in clear up operations after natural disasters. They were involved with clearing up after Hurricane Katrina, and a portion of the $1.8 million will go to workers in this area.
US Attorneys in various states cooperated with the US Dept of Labor in 2006, to investigate and bring to prosecution companies who violated employment laws in the Gulf Coast region. The task force concentrated on areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and other hurricane affected areas.
Did you know that in 2006 thirty people were gravely injured due to mine related accidents? These people were between the ages of 17 and 51. Federal and states organizations, private agencies, individuals, and businesses are active associates in the “Stay Out – Stay Alive” campaign.
“Stay Out – Stay Alive” is a new public safety campaign that was created to inform workers about the safety risks involved in trespassing on mine property. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) wants to warn workers, adults, teens and children that an accident on mine property could be fatal.
The campaign includes public service announcements to make people aware of the possibility of wandering on mine property without knowing it, while working or playing. Another part of the program includes federal mine health and safety experts visiting schools, scouting groups and other clubs to talk to the youth about the hazards regarding playing on mine property.
Whether a mine is abandoned or not, and Tennessee worker safety could be jeopardized by their presence. Several fatal accidents have happened over the years on mine property that involved children. Among them, people just enjoying the outdoors and workers in other fields have also died. More than 200 people, to give an estimate since 1999, have unfortunately lost their lives. in mine-related accidents.
Specific dangers at mines are hidden shafts, poisonous insects and snakes, floods, and hazardous gases. It can be difficult to spot a shaft because they are often covered with old boards that rot over time. Even the light weight of a small child could cause the boards to collapse, injuring or killing the individual from a drop of up to hundreds of feet.
“Many of them contain hidden hazards and, for those not trained to work in mines, the outcome can be deadly. That’s why we urge workers, hikers, bikers, rock hounds and swimmers to “Stay Out — Stay Alive’” says Richard E. Stickler, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. There are about 14,000 active mines in the United States, not to mention the half million abandoned ones.
The USERRA Notice poster was recently updated, making it more important than ever that employers display a current poster. The USERRA- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act poster, ensures the rights of returning veterans and emergency workers.
Federal and state laws require each employer to prominently display a number of labor laws posters, including the USERRA notice. These federal and state labor law posters should be displayed in a conspicuous place. Popular locations are the employee break room, near the time clock, or in another “employees only” area where they will be noticed by every employee.
Most employers find the large, laminated federal and state labor law posters the most durable. There are six posters required for all employers, by federal law. These include:
USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law
Federal Minimum Wage
Employee Polygraph Protection Act
Family and Medical Leave Act
OSHA-Job Safety & Health Protection
To save space, all six federal posters are conveniently available on a single large, laminated poster, called the Complete Poster.
In addition, each state mandates different labor laws posters. The state posting requirements vary greatly. The State of Hawaii mandates only one poster, called the Labor Law Poster, which includes information on Discrimination, Wage & Hour Laws, Unemployment Insurance Law, Disability Compensation Law, Dislocated Workers/Plant Closings, Occupational Safety & Health Laws, Military Leave and the Whistleblower Protection Law.
Several states require only three posters, including Tennessee, North Dakota and South Dakota. Pennsylvania and Rhode Island each require eight different posters, while the State of California requires a whopping 14 state labor law posters to be displayed.
It’s easy for busy employers to overlook the mandatory requirements for state and federal labor laws posters. Many employers don’t realize that depending upon state, they could be subject to fines up to $7,500 in not complying with federal or state posting requirements. The purpose of the posters is to advise employers and employees of their rights and obligations under the law. There is also contact information for employers and employees to report violations of labor law.
Tennessee posters that outline state and federal labor and employment laws need to be posted in the states’ workplace. This posting is the responsibility of the states’ employers and they need to make sure the information is in an obvious location within an area where all employees have access. Possible locations would be the employee work room, break room or any other place the employees tend to visit or gather in on a regular basis. Additionally, employers need to make sure that the information they have posted is the most current information available since labor laws tend to change frequently (sometimes even annually).
The information on the Tennessee posters needs to outline specific state laws. These include information on OSHA, unemployment insurance, child labor, workers’ compensation and discrimination. Specific federal laws also need to be addressed on the posters. This is basically the same for all states: USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law, Federal Minimum Wage, Employee Polygraph Protection Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and OSHA – Job Safety and Health Protection.
The regulations that require employers to post the Tennessee posters are meant to benefit the employees primarily. This is because it’s the main place for Tennessee employees to find the information relevant to their employment rights. The information about the state and federal labor laws often also includes the protocols for filing complaints as well as which state or federal agencies they need to contact to file such grievances.
Employers can also benefit from the information on the Tennessee posters. They can use them to find out what they need to do to make sure they are protecting their employees’ rights as well. The posters can also serve as a quick reference if they have questions about specific labor laws affecting them.