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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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time clockFederal law establishes a clear right for non-exempt employees to receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a week. However, an employer can only violate this law if the employer either knows, or has a reason to believe, that an employee is working overtime. A recent ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is an informative one for both Tennessee employers and employees, since it imparts useful information about what is needed to prove that the employer would, with reasonable diligence, have a reason to believe that an employee was working overtime.

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home health careA late June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to take a case pursued by several trade association groups means that a revised regulation expanding minimum wage and overtime protections to almost two million additional home care workers will stand. The high court’s refusal to hear the case leaves intact a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from last year that determined that the U.S. Department of Labor validly exercised its authority to create wage-and-hour regulations when it decided to redefine who is, and who is not, an exempt “companion services” worker.

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conference roomEmployers have a reasonably wide latitude in the non-discriminatory reasons that they state as bases for terminating employees. That latitude does not, however, extend to punishing an employee for “disruptive conduct” if the conduct in question was testifying on behalf of a co-worker in her Title VII discrimination case. A recent ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a terminated employee to pursue his retaliation claim. Testifying in a Title VII case is a protected activity under the law, and punishing him under the guise of “disruptive conduct” for giving unflattering testimony about his employer in his deposition raises a potential issue of retaliation.

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call center representativeAn African-American customer service worker who was held back from promotion while other white coworkers with similar performance reviews were promoted had a potential claim for race discrimination and retaliation, according to a recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The employee did not have a valid claim for constructive discharge, though. The decision is a reminder to Tennessee employees and employers of the higher level of intolerable conditions for a constructive discharge claim as compared to a retaliation claim.

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Obama signs billGeorgia employers and employees will soon be operating by a new set of rules when it comes to overtime pay for certain salaried employees. On May 18, the White House and the US Department of Labor announced new rules that will greatly expand the range of salaried employees who qualify to receive overtime. The new rules more than double the salary cap for eligible employees and, according to the White House, make an additional 4.2 million workers eligible for overtime. The White House also expects the new rules to increase earnings by roughly $12 billion over the next decade.

The rules governing salaried employees’ eligibility for overtime contain within them a maximum salary above which salaried workers cannot receive overtime pay. Prior to the adoption of the new rules, the salary cap was $23,660. The new rules hike that eligibility maximum to $47,476. These new rules arose from a 2014 Presidential Memorandum in which President Obama directed the Labor Department to update the regulations related to who is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime provisions. This was done in order to further “the President’s goal of ensuring workers are paid a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.”

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US Supreme CourtA significant new ruling issued earlier this month by the U.S. Supreme Court offers very good news for employees who have been the victims of discrimination that was so bad that it ultimately forced them to quit their jobs in order to escape the mistreatment. According to the Court’s 7-1 majority, the statute of limitations for pursuing a discrimination claim does not even begin to run until the date the employee resigns, as opposed to the date of the last act of discrimination. This decision delays the start of that limitations period and gives employees in Georgia and across the country an expanded period of time to begin pursuing their claims.

The case leading to this ruling began in a post office in Colorado. Marvin Green, an African-American man, applied to be the postmaster of Englewood, Colorado. Another applicant received the job, and Green launched a claim, alleging that his rejection was the result of racial discrimination. According to Green, his supervisors responded to that action by threatening him with a criminal investigation on the basis of intentionally delaying the mail. Ultimately, the supervisors and Green worked out an agreement to avoid the investigation. Green would either accept a reassignment to the tiny and isolated town of Wamsutter, Wyoming (located four hours northwest of Green’s suburban Denver job) and the dramatic pay cut that went with it… or retire.

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clockIn a recent case (and a noteworthy one to Tennessee employers and employees) that continues the exploration of which employees are, or are not, qualified under the Fair Labor Standards Act to receive overtime pay, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a bank’s failure to pay its residential mortgage loan underwriters overtime did not violate the FLSA. The underwriters performed tasks that were integral to one of the employer’s primary business objectives (lending money) and did their jobs using a substantial degree of discretion and independent judgment, so they were exempt from receiving overtime.

In this situation, a group of residential mortgage loan underwriters sued their employer, Huntington Bancshares, Inc., for failing to pay them overtime in violation of the FLSA. A federal district court in Ohio concluded that the underwriters were exempt from receiving overtime pay under 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1) because they qualified as administrative employees.

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Popeyes ChickenFor Georgia employers engaging in the process of investigating an employee for possible misconduct, a recent 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision offers useful knowledge about what is (and is not) required in order to avoid running afoul of Title VII and finding oneself liable for illegal discrimination. In that recent case, the court ruled against an employee who alleged sex discrimination, deciding that, even if the employer’s investigation into that employee was flawed, the employee lacked proof, as required by the law, that the employer’s actions were motivated by an intent to discriminate.

The employee in the case, Kendra Chukes, started work in 2012 as an assistant manager at a Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits restaurant in Florida. Before Chukes started working at that location, the restaurant had experienced virtually no problems with cash shortages in its safe. However, less than two months into Chukes’ employment, the safe came up short on cash three times while she was on duty. Despite Chukes’ denial of involvement, a supervisor ordered her suspended without pay pending the conclusion of an investigation into the repeated instances of missing money. Ultimately, after interviewing several employees about the missing money, the supervisor decided to terminate Chukes.

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