Tennessee Legal Blog

Wage and hour disputes garner less attention than shoplifting

The federal minimum wage per hour is about enough to buy one meal at a Tennessee fast food restaurant. Those working minimum wage jobs often count on every penny to meet their obligations. Nevertheless, among many employers, wage and hour disputes seem to carry considerably less weight than preventing shoplifting. In fact, a recent study compared losses due to shoplifting with the loss workers feel when paid unfair wages.

Paying a worker less than the legal minimum wage is only one way an employer steals from his or her employees. Other ways include forcing employees to work before or after clocking in, withholding overtime pay and stealing tips. However, in an average year, employers spend almost 40 times on security measures than the U.S. Department of Labor allots to enforce laws for fair wages. Compared to nearly 44,000 retail security guards, the DOL employs only 1,000 people charged with investigating wage theft.

Court rules on church exemption from ERISA

When Congress passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, guidelines were set to protect citizens in Tennessee and across the country from unscrupulous fiduciaries concerning benefits offered by private industries. In 1980, Congress decided that ERISA laws do not include those benefits offered by churches. Recently, participants in several church-affiliated health plans challenged this exception as it related to their employers. Their argument went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the employers prevailed.

The ruling came after participants in plans offered by the health care systems argued that their institutions had no direct connection with a church. They claimed the organization running their plan was one of many taking advantage of the church exemption from ERISA laws. The Supreme Court ruled that when Congress created the ERISA exemption for pensions established by churches, the exemption allowed that such pensions can be managed by another entity (such as a board) and still be associated with the church.

Mass torts can bring unusual claims

What is the value of a life? Apparently, according to some gamers, it is worth filing mass torts against game makers who deny those lives. While to some, it may seem trivial to file a lawsuit for the value of an online life, to others, it is a matter of principal. After all, when nearly 100 million people world wide play a particular game, including many in Tennessee, the value of a life may equal millions of dollars for the game maker.

The class action lawsuit was filed by a man who has been playing Candy Crush for over five years. Beginning with five lives, gamers work their way through various levels of the game, losing a life for each unsuccessful attempt to meet the level's goals. When all lives are lost, players can wait 30 minutes for lives to regenerate, purchase five new lives for 99 cents or ask fellow gamers to donate lives.

Wage and hour disputes common in food service industry

In Tennessee and across the country, employment in the food services industry is often a thankless job. The hours can be long, the work is often grueling and the pay nominal. When that pay is illegally withheld, it can lead to wage and hour disputes. Recent investigations show that restaurant and food truck workers may be shortchanged on a regular basis.

The problem was made public when reporters in another state surveyed employees working in a city's hundreds of food trucks. Common complaints included paychecks that bounced, unpaid overtime and wages below the legal minimum. Wage issues may be more widespread in food trucks because they are often temporary businesses that rely upon verbal contracts when they hire employees.

ERISA agency surprises former employee with overdue pension

Investing years of time and effort working for a Tennessee company has its rewards. Often, long-term employees feel a certain pride in their work, a loyalty to the employer and a development of important, marketable skills. Additionally, they often expect a pension when they retire. When that pension does not come through, an employee may be concerned about how to manage in the future, especially if the company ceases operations. In some cases, however, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)  may cover them.

One man in another state spent 13 years working as a visual merchandiser for a clothing company. He left the company for a rewarding but less lucrative and physically taxing career. When the clothing company closed its business some years later, the man let go of his hopes to take a vacation with his wife and make other plans for retirement with the pension he might have received.

Mass torts filed against Walmart for pregnancy discrimination

Pregnancy is a natural process, and many women in Tennessee can carry a child to term with no problems. However, common knowledge says that some behaviors should be modified for the safety of the baby and the health of the mother, even in a low-risk pregnancy. Sometimes, a doctor may advise an expectant mother to avoid certain activities, such as lifting or standing for too long, and the law protects women from discrimination at work when these accommodations are necessary. When businesses ignore this law across the board, they risk facing claims for mass torts.

Recently, two women in different states filed a class-action lawsuit against Walmart because they say they were subjected to discriminatory practices during their pregnancies. Both women say they repeatedly requested accommodations and provided documentation from doctors instructing the women to avoid heavy lifting. Nevertheless, their managers refused to relieve them of strenuous duties, saying their pregnancies were no excuse. One of the women was hospitalized after lifting a 35-pound tray of chicken.

Planet Fitness faces picket line during wage and hour disputes

Although many people in Tennessee love their jobs, few of them would agree to perform their workplace duties without pay. Getting a paycheck is the reason why most people look for jobs and endure what may be difficult working conditions. When employees face wage and hour disputes, either because they are not paid for the hours they worked or their employees do not pay them fairly, they may resort to drastic measures to get what they deserve.

Day laborers in another state picketed in front of a number of Planet Fitness gyms to protest the fact that they never received paychecks for the work they did. The nine workers were hired through a subcontractor to do renovations and construction on three different gyms in the area, often working from 10 to 17 hours a day and finishing at 2 a.m. The work included moving heavy fitness equipment, tiling floors and building bathrooms. When the work was complete, Planet Fitness owed the laborers over $100,000.

Fighting To Get Treatment For Hepatitis C Infected Prisoners

A lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Corrections over its insufficient treatment of prisoners infected with Hepatitis C has been granted class action status, and Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC, attorney Karla Campbell is on the legal team.


Mass torts: Prisoners join fight for treatment of hepatitis C

Life in prison is rough under any circumstances, and when a prisoner is sick, it can be very worse. For example, Tennessee prisons reportedly see epidemic numbers of hepatitis C cases. However, because a small fraction of those cases are treated, a U.S. District Court judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit filed by two sick inmates. Mass torts widen the field of plaintiffs.

Hepatitis C is spreading through the Tennessee prison system with staggering numbers. A recent tally showed that 3,669 inmates were infected with the potentially deadly virus, up almost 200 from just seven months earlier. Some say this number is likely higher because not every inmate is tested upon incarceration. Of those infected, only seven are receiving treatment. Prison officials deny they are violating the rights of prisoners and that some with the disease will recover without care.

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