Articles Posted in Workplace Agreement Violations

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.

People here in Tennessee often have questions with regards to what being an “employee at-will” means. In simple terms, it means that an employee can be fired at any time, regardless of ii the employer has a legitimate excuse or not. However, this cuts the other way too, an employee can quit their job at any time, even if they have no specific reason for quitting.

I was recently interview on this topic and you can watch the segment here:

One catch with the employment at-will notion is if you have signed an employment contract of some kind with the employer. These are often known as a “contract for employment”, though they can be called any number of names. The idea is to legally bind you to the company and the company to you. In the cases that involve these contracts, an employer is unlikely to be able to fire you without giving you some sort of compensation.

One bit of advice that we can give you is to make sure that you read any contract that is given to you by your employer and that you are expected to sign. If you want, get an attorney to read it and walk you through everything that the contract stipulates. You have to remember that these contracts are drafted by attorneys for your employer so the contract will likely serve the employer’s interests more than yours.
With all of that said, there are some issues that being at-will cannot defend an Employer against. Based on Federal law, Employment at-will policies cannot be used by Employers in any discriminatory manner. For example, it is still illegal for Employers to fire you because of your national origin, sex, religion, color or race. Further, an employer cannot legally fire you because of your age if you are over 40 years old. Finally, another example is that a disabled person cannot be fired due to their handicap, or even the perceiving of a handicap.

As with most every law on the books, there are always little things that are or are not allowed depending on a specific situation. Always make sure to consult with friends, family and an attorney as to your situation to make sure that you are being protected and no Employer is able to take advantage of you. Contracts for employment are not things that you should take lightly. In the future, if you have prepared properly then this contract can help you. But if you did not pay attention, then it could cause some difficulties for you.
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In a new case, a jury ruled that Acadia Health Care acted inappropriately when it worked together with five former employees of Universal Health Services to start a venture under Acadia’s umbrella. Universal Health Services bought Psychiatric Solutions, which was being run by what is now Acadia’s leadership, in 2011. A jury ruled that this venture violated a non-compete agreement and that Acadia Health Care has to pay $6.9 Million to Universal Health Services.

Non-compete agreements are complicated and dangerous for people who just want to earn a living. If you have signed one of these agreements it is important to have it reviewed by an Tennessee Employment Lawyer before you start any new business venture.
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