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Family Medical Leave has been around for a while now, but the Administrative Office of the US Courts just released a report stating that there was a 26.3 % rise in Family Medical Leave Act lawsuits in 2014. There may be a number of reasons for this rise. So what should you do if you are an employer dealing with Family Medical Leave requests and what should you do if you are an employee that feels like you have been wrongly denied your FMLA? Well, here are some suggestions and tips to keep in mind for employers as well as employees. If you have more questions or feel that you may have a FMLA case, then you should speak to one of our FMLA lawyers with the Higgins Firm. We will work with you to make sure your rights are upheld.

It is important to first discuss the many reasons why these cases may be on the rise. One of the main reasons for the increase is because the laws around Family Medical Leave are becoming more well known and the Department of Labor is also expanding the law to include same-sex couples. So, it makes sense that if more people know about the law that more people will use it. The second reason is that Family Medical Leave is defined as a “serious health condition”. This is very vague and therefore, many employees with chronic conditions may find it easy to request and be given the leave.

Many medical professionals also seem very willing to offer certification to employees requesting intermittent FMLA leave even if the reason is not very clear. Also, once an employee receives certification for FMLA, it often becomes easier for them to take the leave for a day or two if they just want a day off because they will not face consequences for that time. Finally, lawsuits may be increasing because many employers may not fully understand the FMLA laws and their requirements. It is important for employers to learn about the laws so they do not fail to realize when an employee may legitimately need the leave. This will help to avoid violations and thus more lawsuits.

Are you an employee that has been misclassified as being exempt from overtime pay? If so, you may be in luck. The Department of Labor is planning to pay closer attention to working conditions and improper pay practices this year, including those non-exempt employees that are being denied overtime pay due to a misclassification. If you feel that you have been wrongly denied your overtime pay, then you need to speak to an overtime pay and employment lawyer with the Higgins Firm. We know that employees work hard for their money and we will help you to get the compensation you deserve.

According to the Mainstreet news source, the Department of Labor’s increase in attention to employers and their pay practices is due to a rise in requested funding and having more staff of their own. The 2015 budget for the Department of Labor includes $11.8 billion in discretionary funding, which includes an increase of more than $41 million for the Wage and Hour Division and some $14 million to help with the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. The U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, stated that, “This budget request works to ensure that Americans have the skills they need for the in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow and also protects the health, safety and retirement savings of workers.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act states that a non-exempt employee is one who is eligible for overtime pay after working forty hours per week. The Department of Labor will audit and investigate companies that have received complaints from their employees or those seeking employment. These investigations can include private interviews by the investigator of company employees.

According to a Final rule recently adopted by the Department of Labor, same-sex couples that are legally married will now be included in the definition of spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act. This means they will be eligible to use FMLA in order to care for their spouse or a family member even if their marriage is not recognized in the state in which they live. The rule became effective on March 27, 2015, but one state’s Attorney General has filed an action seeking to enjoin implementation of the Rule.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act’s “state of residence” rule which had previously been in place since the 1990s, employees were not eligible for protections under FMLA if they were in a legal same-sex marriage in one state but moved to or resided in a state that did not legally recognize the marriage. The new rule known as “place of celebration”, determines eligibility by looking to whether the marriage was valid in the state where the couple was married, regardless of where the couple resides. According to the Department of Labor, the Final Rule’s definition of “spouse” “expressly includes individuals in lawfully recognized same-sex and common law marriages and marriages that were validly entered into outside of the United States if they could have been entered into in at least one state.”

On March 18, 2015, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton commenced a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor, seeking a temporary and permanent injunction to block the Final Rule. In its complaint, Texas argues that United States v. Windsor allows states to decide whether to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, and that the Final Rule invalidly attempts to abrogate the States’ sovereign immunity and thus “flies in the face” of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) employees are presumed entitled to overtime pay. That is, employees are entitled to receive one and one half their regular rate of pay for every hour worked over 40 in each workweek. This is true whether or not the employee is “salaried”.

There are however certain exemptions to the overtime law. These exemptions are based on the particular job duties of the employee; not on whether or not the employee is paid hourly or is salaried. Courts routinely hold these exemptions are to be construed liberally in favor of the employee in determining whether an employee is in fact exempt from overtime pay.

One of these exemptions is the “computer professional” exemption.

In order for an employer to classify an employee exempt as a “computer professional”; the employee must meet both a compensation and job duties test.
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There are employers across the country and even here in Tennessee that act contrary to enacted employment laws. Whether it involves age, race, or gender discrimination, it is important to know your rights and whether you may need the help of an employment lawyer. However, not every situation requires the help of an employment lawyer. If you have any questions about potentially needing an employment lawyer, be sure to give our office a call. We’d be happy to talk with you about your case and whether we can be of any assistance to you. Attorney Jim Higgins was recently interviewed about hiring an employment lawyer. You can learn what to look for in hiring an employment lawyer below.



Although Congress has implemented laws to prevent disparity in the wages of men and women working in similar positions, there is still a large earnings gap between genders. This earnings gap is prevalent across the entire workforce, no matter what job. According to one law professor, it is even occurring by her employer. One would think that a law school would be the last place where federal labor laws may be broken. However, a law professor has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that her school violated federal labor law by paying her less than a man in a similar job.

University of Denver professor Lucy Marsh filed a discrimination claim with the EEOC earlier this month against Sturm College of Law alleging gender discrimination and violations of the Equal Pay Act. Enacted nearly 50 years ago, the Equal Pay Act requires that a man and woman doing the same job at the same place should be paid the same.

Marsh claims that the EEOC complaint stemmed from the “stark inequality between the salaries of make and female full professors” at the school. Despite having worked at the school for over 30 years and earning numerous awards, Marsh is the lowest paid professor on staff earning 37% less than the median full professor salary. Marsh stated, “[Pay equity] is not something done out of consideration. It’s the law.”

According to the EEOC, women in general earned only 77 percent of what men made in 2012. The EEOC estimates that the gender wage gap will not close until 2057 with the current rate of progression. The EEOC has prioritized pay discrimination as one of its top issues.

The EEOC complaint stated, “Professor Marsh believes that she and other female professors at the law school were discriminated against with respect to compensation because of their gender and were paid less than men performing substantially equal work….”

Documents filed with the case include a 2012 memo to faculty regarding pay raises from Dean Martin Katz. The memo included a comparison between male and female faculty salaries. The wage gap for female full-time professors only widened after the recent raises. The memo indicated that female full-time professors earned an average of $16,000 less than male full-time professors. However, Katz attributed the disparity to differences in starting salaries, merit based raises, renegotiated salaries, and previous supervisory positions.

According to Marsh, she had never asked for a raise or even thought about the potential disparity in pay until Ann Scales, a fellow female law professor, raised the issue even prior to the 2012 memo. Scales had inquired into the potential pay inequities in discussions with Katz. However, Katz declined to respond to Scales’ request for reassurances. Marsh decided to take up the case following the death of Scales.

The school declined to provide any addition comments stating that the case was still open and personnel information is confidential.
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Students and recent graduates often volunteer for internships to gain experience and get their foot in the door of their chosen industry. Unfortunately, they can often find themselves learning very little and simple becoming free labor for the employer. So when should it stop being a “free internship” and become paid labor under the law? Well the general rule is that when it becomes less about learning for the student and more about work the company needs then the company better pay up in accordance with our Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Our Fair Labor Standards Act Lawyers have handled several of these cases.

Attorney Jon Street was recently interviewed about the requirement to be paid for internships. You can watch the interview below:

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A bill introduced in the Tennessee legislature specifically allows hospitals and doctors to provide negligent medical care in Tennessee emergency roomsUnless a patient could prove gross negligence, a standard just short of criminal behavior, there would be no accountability or protection. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Jack Johnson, both from College Grove.

“For example, if you go to the ER with chest pains and the doctor carelessly misdiagnoses you with bronchitis and you go home and have a massive heart attack and die, under the proposed legislation there is no recourse for this kind of sloppiness,” stated Keith Williams, President, Tennessee Association for Justice. “In effect, a doctor would have no responsibility for careless errors that could ultimately cost you your life.”

The current standard for medical negligence already affords protections to ER doctors. ER doctors are protected as long as they deliver care consistent with standards set by their peers-other ER doctors. Only if they fail to meet those standards and harm a patient will they rightfully be held accountable under the present law.

Tragically the Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant in Union City Tennessee closed this month. To help these employees a career center has been set up. We have also received more bad news that the Borders is closing La Vergne, TN
When benefit that some of these employees may have to help through the tough times could be found in the workers compensation act. Specifically, if an employee has a work comp injury and subsequently losses their job through no fault of their own the workers compensation case can be opened. It is know as reconsideration of a workers compensationc claim. There are very specific time limits on reopening a case so if you have been laid off and had a prior work comp claim you should contact a Tennessee workers compensation lawyer quickly.
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Many of us in this country and here in Tennessee go to the grocery store, a video store or even a furniture store and do not even realize that the same minimum wage cases we hear about on TV or the Internet could be happening at these places as well. We just think that if the company is big and well known then their workers must get paid and treated fairly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many of the places we go each day fail to pay their workers proper wages and overtime pay whether they are a big or small company. If you feel that you have been treated unfairly concerning your wage and overtime pay, then you should speak with a Tennessee minimum wage and overtime pay lawyer. They will make sure that you get the pay that is rightfully yours.

A lawsuit was filed Berks County Court against an Ashley Furniture Inc store in Ontelaunee Township for failing to pay overtime and correct wages to three of its employees. The suit has asked the court to allow 3,000 people who have worked for the company in the last four years to be included in the lawsuit. Kevin A Moore, a Wyomissing attorney who filed the suit stated that 750 employees work at the store.

The lawsuit is asking for less than $75,000 for each former employee and also includes Joseph Murphy, the company’s director of operations, as the defendant. Bill Koslo, the attorney for Ashley Furniture of Arcadia, Wisconsin said that the company has not yet been served with the lawsuit. He also claims, “Ashley has fully compensated all of its employees for their work.” Moore who filed the suit stated that “Most employers in this community understand the rules associated with paying hourly workers for the work they perform. Ashley Furniture has not only flouted the rules and the law but has knowingly done so at the expense of thousands of hourly employees.”

The lawsuit also claims the company violated Pennsylvania minimum wage laws by not correctly paying hourly employees, failing to calculate and pay the proper overtime, and not paying hourly employees for working during break and meal times.

The lawsuit also is asking for back pay for each plaintiff for each violation of the labor laws.
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