Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court

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A group of sergeants employed within the county sheriff's office were paid varying amounts within an established pay range. The sergeants filed a grievance regarding the pay disparities. The sheriff's department civil service board upheld the grievance and ordered the sheriff to equalize the pay of all the sergeants in the sheriff's office. On appeal, the county chancery court declared the board's ruling null and void, holding that the board did not have the authority to order pay equalization. The court of appeals agreed that the board exceeded its statutory authority but remanded the cause to the board so it could direct the sheriff to pay all sergeants the same hourly rate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in the absence of proof that the sheriff violated state law or the sheriff's department civil service manual, the board lacked the power to order salary equalization; and (2) the board exceeded its authority in ordering the sheriff to correct the pay disparity, as there was no proof the sheriff violated state law, and the civil service manual specifically gave the sheriff authority to make individual pay determinations. View "Hammond v. Harvey" on Justia Law

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Employee fell while working for Employer and sustained a shoulder fracture. Employee subsequently filed a workers' compensation action. The trial court concluded that Employee had sustained a compensable injury during the course of her employment and awarded benefits to Employee. Employer appealed, arguing that Employee failed to carry her burden of proving the required causal connection between the employment conditions and the injuries she sustained as a result of her fall. Specifically, Employer contended that Employee's injuries resulted from an idiopathic fall and not from any hazard incident to her employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court's conclusion that Employee sustained a compensable injury arising out of her employment. View "Vandall v. Aurora Healthcare, LLC" on Justia Law

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Employee injured his back while working for Employer. Employee and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (Department) agreed upon a settlement that provided for a lump sum payment to Employer for his injuries. The settlement and SD-1 form were signed by Employee and both parties' attorneys. Two years later, Employee filed a petition to set aside the settlement. The trial court granted Employee's petition. The Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel vacated the trial court's judgment on a procedural issue, finding the SD-1 form was not "fully completed." The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the Panel and of the trial court and dismissed Employee's petition, holding (1) when the Department approves a settlement, it implicitly approves the accompanying SD-1 form, and a court has no authority to set the settlement aside based on its independent finding that the SD-1 form was not "fully completed"; and (2) the evidence preponderated against the trial court's finding that Employee was not represented by counsel, and the court erred in granting relief based on Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(5) as well as its inherent authority. View "Furlough v. Spherion Atlantic Workforce, LLC" on Justia Law

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Employer, a temporary staffing agency, assigned Employee to work temporarily at a manufacturing facility. Employee suffered a work-related injury during the assignment and reported the injury to Employer. At approximately the same time, the manufacturing facility ended Employee's assignment. Employer subsequently terminated Employee's employment and did not return Employee to work. The trial court awarded Employee workers' compensation benefits but capped the award at one and one-half times the medical impairment rating. The special workers' compensation appeals panel vacated the trial court's judgment and remanded for a determination of whether Employee had a meaningful return to work. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts, holding that because Employer neither returned Employee to work after his injury, nor offered him an opportunity to work, nor terminated his employment for misconduct, Employee's benefits award was governed by the statute authorizing benefits up to six times the medical impairment rating rather than the statute capping benefits at one and one-half times the medical impairment rating. Remanded. View "Britt v. Dyer's Employment Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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Employee was injured while in the course of scope of his employment through the actions of a third-party tortfeasor (Tortfeasor). Employee filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits and a lawsuit against Tortfeasor. Employer intervened in the lawsuit to protect its subrogation lien against any recovery from Tortfeasor. Employee settled the lawsuit with Tortfeasor and dismissed the case. Employer filed a motion to set the case for trial, asserting that it was entitled to a lien against the settlement proceeds for the cost of future medical benefits that may be paid on behalf of Employee. After initially setting the case for trial, the trial court dismissed for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals reversed and remanded, concluding that future medical expenses are not too speculative as a matter of law to be included in an employer's lien against the proceeds of a suit against a third-party tortfeasor. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employer failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted, as Employer's subrogation lien against the proceeds of the settlement did not extend to the cost of future medical benefits to which Employee may be entitled. View "Cooper v. Logistics Insight Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a tenured teacher who worked for Defendant, the Memphis City Schools Board of Education. After Plaintiff requested and was granted a substantial amount of sick leave but failed to return from that sick leave, Defendant dismissed Plaintiff without providing her with written charges or an opportunity for a hearing. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that her dismissal violated the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act and her constitutional due process rights. The trial court granted Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and awarded Plaintiff's reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages for the actual harm she suffered, and attorney's fees. The court of appeals vacated the grant of summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) although a tenured teacher's failure to return from sick leave may constitute cause for termination, there is no statute authorizing a board of education to deem it a constructive resignation or a forfeiture of tenure; and (2) accordingly, Defendant violated Plaintiff's rights under the Tenure Act and her constitutional due process rights. View "Thompson v. Memphis City Schs. Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law

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An employee filed a request for assistance with the Tennessee Department of Labor after she was injured at her workplace. After approximately six months of inaction by the Department, the employee filed a complaint for workers' compensation benefits against her employer in the circuit court. The employer responded with a motion to dismiss asserting that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the parties had not participated in the benefit review conference process. The trial judge did not dismiss the complaint but ordered the case to be held in abeyance pending further orders of he court. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and dismissed the employee's complaint with prejudice, holding that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction of the case because the employee did not exhaust the benefit review conference process before filing suit as required by Tenn. Code Ann. 50-6-203. View "Chapman v. Davita, Inc." on Justia Law

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Employee was discharged after she filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a lawsuit against Employer alleging employment discrimination. Employee appealed the termination to the Metro Civil Service Commission (Commission) and eventually settled the appeal, receiving backpay and other consideration in exchange for her agreement not to accept future employment with the agency that discharged her. Employee subsequently filed a complaint against Employer alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Employer, reasoning that Employee could not establish her termination constituted an adverse employment action because she had accepted backpay and agreed not to be reinstated as part of the settlement of her Commission appeal. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee's acceptance of the settlement did not preclude her from establishing that her termination constituted an adverse employment action for purposes of her federal retaliatory discharge claims. View "Perkins v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson County" on Justia Law

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In the workers' compensation case underlying this interlocutory appeal, Employee and Employer were unable to reach a resolution. A benefit review report submitted at 10:25 a.m. on October 20, 2011 memorialized the impasse. On the same day, Employee filed a complaint seeking workers' compensation benefits in the chancery court. The time stamp affixed by the court clerk indicated the complaint was filed at 10:22 a.m. In response to Employee's complaint, Employer filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that Employee's complaint had been filed prematurely. After Employee filed affidavits averring he did not file the complaint until after he received the benefit review repor, the chancery court determined it had subject matter jurisdiction and denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a complaint may not be filed until the time noted on the benefit review report; and (2) when a complaint bears an unambiguous time stamp, it shall be deemed filed t the time indicated, and the time stamp may not be impeached by extrinsic evidence. View "Word v. Metro Air Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Employee viewed the bodies of co-workers who had died as a result of work accidents on two separate occasions in February and April 2008. On June 23, 2008, Employee was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by the two incidents. On June 23, 2009, the employee requested a benefit review conference. Employer filed a complaint to determine the amount of workers' compensation benefits due. Employer subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment contending that the statute of limitations commenced on the date of the second accident and that the claim was therefore barred. Employee contended that the statute did not begin to run until the date of his diagnosis and that his claim was timely. The trial court granted Employer's motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the limitations period did not commence until Employee was diagnosed as having PTSD on June 23, 2008; and (2) the statute of limitations therefore did not bar Employee's claim.