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dreadlocksA would-be call center employee lost an offer of employment because she refused to do away with her hairstyle of wearing dreadlocks. The employer, who rescinded the offer of employment based upon its policy against certain hairstyles, was not forced to face trial for this decision. Even if a particular hairstyle is closely associated with people of a particular race and tied to the unique texture of their hair, a hairstyle cannot constitute an “immutable characteristic” as required under Title VII law, and that, according to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, doomed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s case against this employer.

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Valet ParkingA decision from a federal court in Atlanta this summer became the latest in a group to reject a recently created regulation by the U.S. Department of Labor declaring tips to be the property of employees in all circumstances, regardless of whether the tips were needed to raise the employee’s pay to a level that satisfied the minimum wage. The court decided that the plain language of the Fair Labor Standards Act is clear that employers are only required to hand over tip money when they pay a base wage below the applicable minimum wage.

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sick womanA recent case pitting a Tennessee bank teller against her former employer resulted in a judgment in favor of the bank and a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the lower court’s ruling. The bank teller’s lupus required her to miss long stretches of work, and these prolonged absences allowed the bank to terminate her employment without violating either the Family and Medical Leave Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act, since the job that the woman had at the bank required regular attendance.

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Funeral HomeA Detroit-area funeral home recently won a Title VII discrimination case brought by a former employee whom the funeral home fired after the employee announced her intention to transition from male to female. The federal District Court in the case decided that the employer could not be held liable for illegal discrimination because its actions were protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The ruling, issued by a Michigan federal court, is not binding on Tennessee employers, but the case is highly instructive for employers and employees in this state, and it may become meaningful in the future if it reaches the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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hearingAn important new ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals highlights when employees can, and cannot, offer arguments in federal employment cases even after administrative bodies have already ruled against that same argument. In this recent case, the court allowed an employee to pursue a Family and Medical Leave Act retaliation case because, even though a state unemployment compensation appeals hearing officer had previously ruled that the employer fired the employee based upon dishonesty, rather than her use of FMLA leave, the hearing officer didn’t rely on competent evidence in making that conclusion. While this case originated in Alabama, the 11th Circuit’s ruling in the matter can affect employers and employees in Georgia.

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security guardRecent court cases have addressed a steadily wider array of workers — from exotic dancers to NFL cheerleaders to home health workers to, most recently, a hip-hop music producer’s bodyguard — and whether those workers’ employment situations qualify them for the minimum wage and overtime protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling in the bodyguard’s case upheld a lower court ruling in his favor, concluding that the guard’s employment situation clearly met the FLSA’s “economic dependence” standard for qualifying as an employee under the statute.

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pride flagA federal appeals court in Chicago issued an opinion stating that a lesbian professor from Indiana did not have a potential Title VII discrimination case when the sole basis for the alleged discrimination was her sexual orientation. While that decision has no direct impact on Georgia or Tennessee employers and employees, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has two similar matters before it, with the outcomes of those cases potentially having a massive impact in Georgia.

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shipping department workerIn any employment case in which an alleged statutory violation has taken place, it is always important to know exactly what the law requires an employee to show in order to make her case. Tennessee employers and employees should take note of a recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the employer. In this case, the employee lost because she did not have the required proof of damages to support her Family and Medical Leave Act case.

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TeacherA recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case may have resulted in an unfavorable outcome for one professor, but it could also provide benefits for some Tennessee employees pursuing Title VII cases in the future. The court, while rejecting this employee’s claim for back pay because it was too speculative, stated that employees could recover back pay from lost employment opportunities from third-party employers as long as the employee proved that she was entitled to the pay and offered sufficient evidence to establish the amount of lost back pay within a “reasonable certainty.”

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computer engineerA recent 11th Circuit Court of Appeals case addressed the unusual question of whether an employer can go from exempt to non-exempt based upon the employer’s decision to withhold pay as part of an employment dispute. In the 11th Circuit ruling, it decided that, in this case, the employee remained exempt and could not pursue his employer for minimum wage law violations. The employee’s case was a matter for the state courts under a breach of contract cause of action, rather than a matter for a federal court under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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