Articles Posted in Employment Law Cases

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A federal court in Tennessee’s ruling on attorney’s fees should be of concern to anyone who wishes to bring a wage and hour lawsuit.  In Stewart v. CUS Nashville, LLC, Judge Trauger of the Middle District of Tennessee found that since the named plaintiff did not succeed in proving all of her claims, her attorneys should receive just 30% of their requested fees.

The case began in 2011, when plaintiff Misty Blu Stewart filed a complaint on behalf of herself and similarly situated employees, both past and current, of the “Coyote Ugly Saloons” nationwide.  She claimed that waitresses and bartenders, as a matter of company policy and in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), were forced to share their tip pool with security guards, and also to work off of the clock without compensation.  The defendants responded by filing a motion to dismiss the tip pool claims, stating that security guards met the standard of being employees who customarily received tips, and could therefore share in the tip pool.

The case eventually went to trial in April 2013 after an extensive period, during which the court certified a national class of plaintiffs for the tip pool claims and a Tennessee-based class of plaintiffs for the off-the-clock claims.  Stewart also filed an amended complaint that added three retaliation claims under the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision to the existing claims. Continue reading →

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A federal judge in Georgia recently dismissed the lawsuit of an employee who claimed that she had been discriminated against due to her gender and retaliated against for taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In Wright v. Aramark Corporation, Tracey Wright was employed by Aramark Corporation and worked at the Albany State University campus.  She had originally applied for the position of office manager, but after she was hired, claimed that her position was changed to “office worker” with less pay, despite the fact that she did the work of an office manager until the date of her termination.  During her time of employment, she claimed to have been subject to harassment, discrimination, and inappropriate remarks.  For example, one co-worker allegedly placed dog bones on her chair to imply that she was a dog.  Furthermore, she claimed that her employer failed to promote her, failed to compensate her fairly, knowingly hired and promoted individuals who tended to discriminate against Wright, denied her religious accommodations, and penalized her for complaining against unlawful discrimination.  Her employer also violated her rights under the FMLA, reprimanding her for and interfering with her right to take medical leave.

Wright claimed that in addition to violating the FMLA, her employer was liable under Title VII for discrimination, for wrongful termination, and for a violation of the Equal Pay Act.  Aramark Corporation and Albany State University responded to her complaints by filing a motion to dismiss, claiming that Albany State University was not Wright’s employer and, as a government entity, could not be sued.  Wright responded that Albany State University could be sued under Title VII and was her employer because the stationary used by Aramark stated that Aramark was a component of the university.  She also argued that individual supervisors mentioned in the complaint could be held vicariously liable through Title VII.

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In a setback for one employee, a federal district court in Georgia recently ruled against her on a summary judgment motion.  Kejar Butler had claimed racial discrimination and retaliation for taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In Butler v. SunTrust Bank, Kejar Butler was an African American woman who began working for SunTrust in January 2005.  During the fall of 2011, Butler took eight weeks of leave in order to give birth to her child.  At the time, Butler was the assistant branch manager of the Thomasville branch of SunTrust, and during her absence, the position of branch manager became vacant.  Butler applied for the position, and upon return from maternity leave, was interviewed along with two other internal candidates.  Eventually SunTrust hired a different candidate, a white woman.

The area manager who did the hiring had directly supervised and evaluated both Butler and Heather Barnes, the woman who was hired.  During the interview process, he interviewed Barnes in person and Butler by telephone.  Following her interview, Butler learned that she would not be getting the manager position due to her poor client service scores and inadequate coaching logs.  Butler complained to the SunTrust management, then later went on to file a lawsuit on the grounds of Title VII racial discrimination and retaliation against her for exercising her rights under the FMLA.  SunTrust responded by filing a motion for summary judgment.

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