Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court
Mynatt v. National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 39
The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint for malicious prosecution against his union, the local chapter, and several individuals associated with the union, holding that Plaintiff did not allege sufficient facts for a court to conclude that the dismissal of his criminal case was a favorable termination.Plaintiff brought this action alleging that the union's leadership accused him of misusing union funds after he publicly criticized the union's financial waste, leading to his indictment on two felony charges. The State successfully moved to retire the charges for one year, after which the charges were dismissed. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim on the basis that the retirement and dismissal of the criminal charges was not a favorable termination on the merits. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs can pursue a claim for malicious prosecution only if an objective examination, limited to the documents disposing of the proceeding or the applicable procedural rules, indicates the termination of the underlying criminal proceeding reflects on the merits of the case and was due to the innocence of the accused; and (2) under this standard, Plaintiff did not allege sufficient facts to survive a motion to dismiss. View "Mynatt v. National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 39" on Justia Law
Moss v. Shelby County Civil Service Merit Bd.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in this employment action, holding that a civil service merit board does not act arbitrarily or capriciously by declining to allow an employee who is challenging his termination for just cause to inquire about more lenient discipline imposed on other employees.Plaintiff, a Shelby County Fire Department employee, participated in an altercation involving a firearm at a political rally and was subsequently investigated. Due to the altercation and Plaintiff's dishonesty during the investigation, Plaintiff was fired. Plaintiff appealed, requesting that the Shelby County Civil Service Merit Board ask questions about discipline imposed on other fire department employees. The Board affirmed. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case, ruling that the Board arbitrarily and unreasonably excluded questions about other discipline. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board's decision to decline to consider evidence of discipline imposed on other employees was nor arbitrary or capricious. View "Moss v. Shelby County Civil Service Merit Bd." on Justia Law
Rosasco v. West Knoxville Painters, LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of workers' compensation claims determining that Employee's workplace injury did not arise primarily out of and in the course and scope of his employment and granting summary judgment for Employer, holding that the court of workers' compensation claims property granted summary judgment for Employer.Employee was painting the exterior of a house a house while working for Employer on a windy day when he took a break from painting. At one point, he used a portable restroom, not obtained by Employer, located on the street and was struck by a dead tree that had fallen. Employer denied Employee workers' compensation, finding that Employee's injury resulted from an "act of God" and did not arise primarily out of his employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of workers' compensation claims properly determined that Employee's injuries did not arise primarily out of his employment. View "Rosasco v. West Knoxville Painters, LLC" on Justia Law
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