Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court
Lemon v. Williamson County Schools
The Supreme Court held that a claim for wrongful termination of employment could not be asserted under the Teacher Tenure Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 49-5-501 to -515, by classifying a tenured teacher's resignation as a constructive discharge rather than a voluntary quit.After Plaintiff, a tenured teacher, quit her teaching position she sued for wrongful termination under the Teacher Tenure Act, alleging that she was constructively discharged. The amended complaint also asserted other claims. The trial court granted summary judgment against Plaintiff. The appellate court reversed the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim under the Act, concluding that the doctrine of constructive discharge could give rise to a wrongful termination claim under the Act. The court of appeals otherwise affirmed the trial court. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) constructive discharge is not applicable to wrongful termination claims under the Act; and (2) the lower courts properly dismissed Plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Lemon v. Williamson County Schools" on Justia Law
Geller v. Henry County Board of Education
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court upholding the transfer of a tenured teacher (Plaintiff), working as a school administrator, to a teaching position because Plaintiff did not have an administrator license, holding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the transfer decision was not made in good faith and was arbitrary, capricious, or improperly motivated.In reversing the trial court, the court of appeals held that a regulation required the director of the school system to review the administrative duties Plaintiff had performed in the past in order to determine whether an administrator license was required, and the director's failure to do so rendered his transfer decision arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff pointed to no provision in the Teacher Tenure Act that prevents a school system from establishing instructional leadership by school administrators as a priority; (2) consistent with the school system's priorities, Plaintiff was precluded from having administrative duties in the upcoming school year that involved more than fifty percent instructional leadership absent an administrator license; and (3) consequently, the director's failure to consider Plaintiff's past work did not render the transfer decision either arbitrary or capricious. View "Geller v. Henry County Board of Education" on Justia Law
Bain v. UTI Integrated Logistics LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding, among other things, that Employee was not permanently and totally disabled after suffering an injury to her left shoulder and awarding temporary total disability benefits from the date of her left shoulder surgery through the date of her voluntary resignation, holding that the evidence supported the trial court's decisions.Employee, who worked for Employer as a shuttle truck driver, sustained a compensable injury to her right shoulder and wrist in August 2010. For this injury Employee entered into a settlement agreement with Employer. After returning to work, in January 2013, Employee suffered an injury to her left shoulder. In March 2015, Employee voluntarily resigned. The trial court ruled (1) Employee was not permanently and totally disabled; (2) because of Employee's voluntary resignation, the 1.5 times cap applied for purposes of reconsideration of the 2010 injury and assessment of the 2013 injury; (3) Employee had a six percent medical impairment rating for the 2013 injury; (4) Employer was not responsible for expenses related to treatment Employee sought on her own; and (5) Employee was entitled to temporary total disability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court's findings. View "Bain v. UTI Integrated Logistics LLC" on Justia Law
Chaney v. Team Technologies, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court denying Employer’s motion to dismiss Employee’s action seeking workers’ compensation benefits for injuries she received from Employer’s failure to use its automated external defibrillator (AED) while Employee suffered a non-work related medical emergency, holding that Employer was not liable for workers’ compensation benefits under the circumstances.Employee collapsed at work because of a medical condition unrelated to her employment. Employer had acquired an AED but did not use it to assist Employee while awaiting emergency medical responders. Employee brought suit, alleging that Employer’s failure to use the AED and its failure to train or hire an employee able to use an AED delayed resuscitation efforts, causing Employee to sustain a brain injury. The trial court denied Employer’s motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee’s claim did not arise out of her employment because Employer provided reasonable medical assistance and had no statutory or common law duty to use its AED to assist Employee. View "Chaney v. Team Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Smith v. Tennessee National Guard
Plaintiff’s claim brought against Defendant pursuant to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, 38 U.S.C. 4301 to 4335 (USERRA), accrued prior to July 1, 2014 and remained barred by sovereign immunity.In 2014, the General Assembly enacted a statute waiving Tennessee’s sovereign immunity for claims bought against the State pursuant to USERRA. The waiver of sovereign immunity became effective on July 1, 2014 and applied to USERRA claims accusing on or after that date. Relying on this newly enacted statute, Plaintiff brought a USERRA claim against Defendant, an entity of the State, based on facts that occurred prior to August 8, 2014. the trial court dismissed the claim, concluding that the claim remained barred by sovereign immunity because it accrued prior to July 1, 2014. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff’s cause of action accrued on July 1, 2014 when Plaintiff gained a judicial remedy by the enactment of the statute waiving sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff’s claim accrued prior to July 1, 2014. View "Smith v. Tennessee National Guard" on Justia Law
Tennessee Department of Correction v. Pressley
A “preferred service” state employee does not have a protected property interest in his or her employment, and the State did not bear the ultimate burden of proof in a post-termination administrative appeal under section 8-30-318 of the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability, and Management Act of 2012 (TEAM), Tenn Code. Ann. 8-39-101 through -407.After the Tennessee Department of Correction (Petitioner) dismissed David Pressley from his employment as a correctional officer, Pressley challenged his termination under the TEAM Act’s appeals process. The Board of Appeals reinstated Pressley at Step III of the appeals process. The chancery court reversed, concluding that the Board erred in determining that the State bore the ultimate burden of proof in the Step III appeal. The court of appeals, in turn, reversed, determining that preferred service state employees have a protected property interest in their employment and that the Board correctly assigned the ultimate burden of proof. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the Board, holding (1) preferred service employees do not possess a property interest in their continued employment with the State; and (2) the Board erred when it assigned the ultimate burden of proof to the State to sustain Pressley’s termination for cause. View "Tennessee Department of Correction v. Pressley" on Justia Law
Kilburn v. Granite State Insurance Co.
Charles Kilburn was injured in a motor vehicle accident and underwent surgery to resolve his neck injury complaints. Charles took oxycodone to alleviate his back pain. Several months after his surgery, Charles died due to an overdose of oxycodone combined with alcohol. The chancery court found that the death was compensable and awarded workers’ compensation death benefits to Judy Kilburn, Charles’s wife. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the chancery court, holding that Charles’s failure to take his medication in accordance with his doctor’s instructions ultimately caused his demise, and therefore, his death was no longer causally related to his work-related injury, and his overdose was an independent intervening cause. View "Kilburn v. Granite State Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Hardy v. Tournament Players Club at Southwind, Inc.
Employee asserted a private right of action against Employer under the Tennessee Tip Statute, Tenn. Code Ann. 50-2-107, for Employer’s failure properly to pay tips, gratuities, and service charges. The trial court granted Employer’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on the ground that there was no private right of action under the statute. The court of appeals reversed based in part on a 1998 court of appeals opinion, Owens v. University Club of Memphis, recognizing a private cause of action under the Tip Statute. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and affirmed the trial court’s judgment, holding (1) Owens is inconsistent in part with subsequent Supreme Court jurisprudence on implying a private right of action under a statute, and therefore, this Court declines to apply the doctrine of legislative inaction to presume that the legislature knew of the holding in Owens and acquiesced in it; and (2) Owens is overruled to the extent that it is inconsistent with the Court’s holding here that an employee has no private right of action under section 50-2-107. View "Hardy v. Tournament Players Club at Southwind, Inc." on Justia Law
Emory v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education
Rogelynn Emory, a full-time tenured teacher in the Memphis City School System, was terminated after the Memphis City Schools Board of Education concluded after a hearing that there was ample evidence of Emory’s unsatisfactory job performance. Emory subsequently filed a petition for judicial review. The trial court affirmed the Board’s decision. The Court of Appeals declined to reinstate Emory based on the untimeliness of the school board hearing but awarded her partial back pay. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision to upheld the termination of Emory’s employment and clarified the standard of judicial review for the termination of a tenured teacher under the Tenure Act, holding (1) the Court of Appeals’ award of partial back pay was without basis in the Teachers’ Tenure Act; and (2) because Emory failed to raise before the school board any objection as to the timeliness of her hearing, that issue was not properly before the Supreme Court. View "Emory v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education" on Justia Law
Stacey v. Nissan N.A., Inc.
Employee was terminated because of an altercation with an employee of a contractor at Employer’s wellness center. After his termination, Employee sought reconsideration of his three workers’ compensation claims. The trial court determined that Employee was entitled to reconsideration and awarded additional permanent disability benefits, concluding that Employer had not sustained its burden of proof that Employee’s misconduct was connected with his employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Employee was entitled to reconsideration of his previous award and settlements because the conduct that resulted in his termination was not connected with his employment; (2) the trial court’s erroneous evidentiary rulings constituted harmless error; and (3) the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that Employee was entitled to additional permanent disability benefits. View "Stacey v. Nissan N.A., Inc." on Justia Law