Tennessee Employment Lawyer Blog

It’s hard to believe, but some employers actually will discriminate or retaliate against their employees or applicants merely because they were or may be required to spend time away from work because of their service to our country through the reserves or other military service. Congress, fortunately has enacted laws which makes such discrimination or retaliation illegal. This law is known as The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”).

Specifically the law states:

“A person who is a member of, applies to be a member of, performs, has performed, applies to perform, or has an obligation to perform service in a uniformed service shall not be denied initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment by an employer on the basis of that membership, application for membership, performance of service, application for service, or obligation.”  38 U.S.C.S. § 4311

According to a recent story from the AP, the state of Tennessee has stopped taking new inmates at its newest facility in Hartsville, TN after only 4 months of operation. “We’re holding off on sending more prisoners until CCA has an opportunity to increase its recruiting efforts and staffing,” Tennessee Department of Correction Assistant Commissioner Tony Parker told the AP.

This is certainly not the first time CCA has been in trouble for overworking its employees; in 2014, CCA paid 8 million ($8,000,000.00) to settle a lawsuit for back wages for employees at its facility in California City, CA. The company also paid $260,000 to settle overtime claims in November, 2013 for shift managers at its facilities in Kentucky. The settlement was unsealed – over CCA’s objections – after Prison Legal News (PLN), a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, intervened in the case to make the settlement public.

Also, in August 2009 the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas unsealed a $7 million settlement agreement in a nationwide class-action wage and hour lawsuit against CCA. The suit, brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act, alleged that CCA had required some employees to perform work duties “without compensating them for all such hours worked.” Specifically, the company was accused of not paying correctional officers and other employees for pre- and post-shift work that included roll calls, obtaining weapons and equipment, attending meetings and job assignment briefings, and completing paperwork.

It is hard not to love Uber living in a city like Nashville. So many of us have used this service to get around town. It is a very popular service and company. However, it may be one of many companies trying to pay their workers as independent contractors instead of employees so they do not have to pay them the benefits and wages they are entitled to. If you or someone you work with feel that you have been misclassified and are not receiving the wages, overtime pay or benefits you deserve, then you should speak to a employment and overtime pay lawyer with the Higgins Firm. We will listen to your claim and help you get the compensation you are entitled to for the work that you have done.

According to this lawsuit filed last year by up to 385,000 drivers that were seeking  employee status and the associated benefits to which they would be entitled, the law requires that businesses must reimburse their employees for work-related expenses, which if drivers were classified as employees would include outlays for gas and parking that Uber and Lyft currently do not cover.

In the settlement Uber will pay $84 million to the plaintiffs, with a second payment of $16 million if its valuation increases a certain amount within a year after a public offering. The company’s latest round of venture capital financing disclosed in December valued it at $62.5 billion. Uber will also make changes to its policies, including giving more information on how and why the company bars drivers, and creating drivers associations in California and Massachusetts as appeals venues for workers who disagree with the company’s decisions.

Leading stars of the United States women’s national team have filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against U.S. Soccer, claiming wage discrimination relative to the men’s national team. Carli Lloyd told Matt Lauer on the “Today” show, “I think that we’ve proven our worth over the years. Just coming off of a 2015 Women’s World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. And we want to continue to fight.”

The four other players that filed the complaint are goalkeeper Hope Solo, striker Alex Morgan, playmaker Megan Rapinoe and central defender and co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn. They feel that he women’s national team, which enjoys a national popularity that often exceeds the men’s in the mainstream, drives far more revenue to the U.S. Soccer Federation than they are compensated for. According to an investigation by the New York Daily News, the financial constructions that channel those incomes are so tousled that there’s no telling what money is brought in by the women and how much of it by the men. The women feel though that they have been stonewalled by the federation in their attempts to see the financial statements for themselves.

The women point to the vast disparity in performance bonuses.  The men’s team received more, a shared $2.5 million just for reaching the World Cup, than the women did for winning the entire thing, $1.8 million. A similar gap exists in all other bonuses as well. The men sometimes collect ten times more for winning a friendly than the women do. However, the women and not the men, , also receive a full-time salary from the federation of up to $72,000, not including up to hundreds of thousands in bonuses they typically collect, a baseline guarantee the men don’t enjoy. They are also compensated by the federation for participating in the National Women’s Soccer League.

After a string of business friendly rulings, the Supreme Court has handed a victory out to the working men and women.  In this case, employees at the meat processing facility, Tyson Foods, filed a lawsuit in 2007 claiming that they were entitled to overtime pay and damages because they were not paid for their time spent putting on and taking off protective equipment and walking to their work stations. Tyson Foods challenged this almost 5.8million class action lawsuit and on March 22, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the employees in a six to two ruling by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Thus ruling upheld a 2014 appeals court decision in favor of the employees.

This was one of three  closely watched class action cases to come before the court during its current term. In January, the court ruled six to three against advertising firm Campbell-Ewald, saying a lawsuit could proceed over claims the company violated a federal consumer law by sending unsolicited text messages on behalf of the U.S. Navy.   In the Tyson case, the court was considering an objection to the use of statistics to determine liability and damages. Critics in the business community have described such use of statistics as “trial by formula” that violates defendants’ due process rights, instead of assessing each claim individually for the more than 3,000 current and former employees who are suing.

This ruling was also decided in part because of a 1946 Supreme Court precedent that said plaintiffs can rely on averages in such situations to determine claims under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Justice Kennedy stated that, “While corporate defendants may urge adoption of broad and categorical rules governing the use of representative and statistical evidence in class actions, this case provides no occasion to do so.”  He also stated that, “The ruling does not undercut the court’s major 2011 ruling in favor of Wal Mart Stores Inc., which made it harder to bring class action cases.

According to the class action Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit filed on February 15, 2016 on behalf of all the delivery drivers who work or have worked at the forty-seven of the pizza chain stores, Domino’s delivery drivers allege that they were not paid the full minimum wage rate for all hours worked up to and including forty hours per week and failed to pay overtime (time-and-one-half the full minimum wage rate) for all hours worked in excess of forty per work week, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA. The lawsuit also claims that Domino’s required delivery drivers to use their own personal vehicles and cell phones while at Domino’s, but they failed to reimburse their delivery drivers for the mileage, fuel, repair, maintenance, insurance and depreciation involving their personal vehicles as well as the call time, data, and text messages involving their personal cell phones as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The delivery drivers also state that they were expected to perform substantial producing side work in the store for which they do not receive tips, while still being paid below the full statutory minimum wage as well work several hours off-the-clock for which they did not receive any compensation and that Domino’s failed to provide delivery drivers the correct hours pay and or reimburse delivery drivers for uniform-related expenses that they had to pay.

These types of violations to the Fair Labor Standards Act occur all too often to delivery drivers, servers, independent contractors, sales representatives, and other hard working employees because businesses find ways around these requirements or just fail to follow them completely. If you or someone you know has been wrongly denied the proper wage or misclassified as being exempt overtime pay that you were entitled to, then you should contact one of our experienced and compassionate wage and overtime pay attorneys at the Higgins Firm. We know how important your paycheck is to you and we will listen to your claim. We will address any concerns that you may have. Our lawyers will also gather any evidence that may be needed for your case and then work hard to see to it that you receive the compensation that is rightfully yours for the work that you have done. We will also make sure that the business responsible is held accountable for their actions.

Many of us go to work each day so that we can pay our bills and provide for our loved ones. However, sometimes injuries can happen on the job especially if you work around dangerous equipment. Workers’ Compensation benefits usually help those that may suffer an injury on the job. However, many states are now limiting these benefits and making it more difficult for workers to get the help they need. If you have questions about how these limits may affect your workers compensation case or if you have been injured at your workplace, you should speak to a workers compensation lawyer with the Higgins Firm. We will answer any questions or concerns you may have and help you to get the compensation you need for your injuries.

Ten ranking Democrats on key Senate and House committees are urging the Labor Department to respond to changes in state workers’ compensation laws that have limited protections and benefits for injured workers over the past ten years. In a letter addressed to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, the lawmakers cited an investigation by NPR and ProPublica, which found that thirty-three states have cut workers’ comp benefits and made it more difficult to qualify or given employers more control over medical care decisions.

This letter also discusses NPR and ProPublica stories last week that detailed an emerging trend that allows employers to drop out of state-regulated workers’ compensation programs, and allows them to write their own injury plans and limit benefits on their own. The letter is signed by Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential hopeful and ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee; Patty Murray, the ranking member of the Senate Labor Committee; Bobby Scott, the ranking member of the House Workforce Committee; and seven other senior Democrats on House and Senate Budget, Finance, Employment, Workforce, Ways and Means, and Social Security committees.

It isn’t just factory workers or office staff that is protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The act can also apply to the adult entertainment industry.  In fact, there has been a string of lawsuits against strip clubs across the country because they fail to pay the dancers in accordance with the minimum hourly wage laws.

According to this lawsuit, two former exotic dancers at the Red Garter Saloon strip club are suing the company and its owner Mark Rossi over unpaid wages. Michea Dixon and Rebecca Wiles claim in a seventeen page complaint that Red Garter Saloon, Rossi, and his company, Keys Productions, Inc., violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying them an hourly wage or overtime. Their lawsuit states that the women claim their only form of compensation was by way of tips and that the business failed to pay the plaintiff any wages whatsoever, throughout her employment.

Their legal representation wrote in the complaint that the business has a “longstanding policy of misclassifying their employees as independent contractors.” He alleges in the complaint such a classification is illegal. This lawsuit is very similar to several other lawsuits filed by exotic dancers alleging wage theft as per the independent contractor classification, which appears to be the common theme in other litigation.

According to this recent case, Amy Potts was pregnant and had just undergone a surgical procedure in April 2010 when she requested that she be permitted to lift no more than 25 pounds at the Landis Homes Retirement Community where she worked as a supervisor for eight years. The lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims that Potts was placed on unpaid, indefinite leave that day and then told to re-apply after she gave birth and was able to return to work without restrictions. When she did reapply in March of 2011, she was informed that she had been terminated effective the end of that month and would not be considered for the positions because they had not been informed that her lifting restriction had ended.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a press release stated that, “The Landis Homes Retirement Community failed to accommodate a pregnant nursing supervisor, terminated her because of her pregnancy and in retaliation for her reasonable accommodation request, and later refused to rehire because of her pregnancy and disability.” Spencer H. Lewis Jr., director of one of the EEOC’s offices stated that, “Fairness and federal law mandate that pregnant employees be treated the same as other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. In this case, the nursing home accommodated non-pregnant employees who had work restrictions, but treated Amy Potts differently because of her pregnancy. That is simply unjust and against the law.”

Larry Guengerich, spokesman for the nursing home’s parent organization, Landis Communities stated in an email that the company “does not discriminate against its employees in any way, shape or form.” He also stated that, “While we do not wish to comment on the specific allegations made by the EEOC at this time, we look forward to vigorously defending our position in court,” he wrote. “The EEOC has painted a picture that Landis intentionally seeks to deprive its employees the rights they are entitled to under law when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.”

Worker misclassification has become perhaps the most widespread way employers are cheating employees out of money they are entitled; otherwise known as “wage theft”.

Construction companies, strip clubs, delivery services, music industry, movie studios, fashion designers, and most recently employers in the “shared economy” such as Uber and Lyft have found themselves in trouble for misclassifying their employees as “independent contractors” or “interns”

Uber and Lyft claim they are a technology service, their only business is connecting customers with contractors providing a certain service; however it certainly appears Uber and Lyft are  car services, not technology services. If these companies provide a service and have folks they employ to provide these services, they owe these employees minimum wage and overtime. You can learn more about worker misclassification as it relates to independent contractors here.