Tennessee Legal Blog

The link between asbestos and mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the lining of organs. The disease most commonly affects the lungs, and it is believed that mesothelioma of the lungs is caused primarily by environmental factors.

If you are suffering from mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation of some sort. This is because it is possible that you developed the disease as a result of your working environment. When the probable cause of mesothelioma is strongly linked to the working environment, you may be able to make a legal claim.

ERISA protections continue to grow and change

When the Employee Retirement Income Security Act went into effect in 1974, its purpose was to protect workers whose employers voluntarily provided benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. ERISA never required businesses to supply this coverage for employees, but the law mandated minimal standards to ensure employers did not take advantage of their workers. In Tennessee and across the country, employees have peace of mind knowing their benefits are in place and that they have recourse if a plan fiduciary breaches his or her duty.

Since 1974, the original law has been amended in numerous ways. For example, the law now contains additional protections for women, cancer victims and those who suffer with mental health issues. Those who appreciate the privacy protections of their medical records can thank the ERISA amendment called Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPPA's protection of patient health issues aims to prevent health care coverage discrimination against employees who may have preexisting conditions.

New opioid approved despite mass torts claims against drugmakers

While many rely on the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they consider a drug safe to use, some may be questioning the recent FDA approval of a new opioid painkiller. With dozens of mass torts claims in progress against pharmaceutical companies across the country, some believe the introduction of a new and potent opioid is a way for pharmaceutical companies to bring more trouble for themselves and more danger to the streets. More than 49,000 people in Tennessee and across the country died of opioid overdoses last year, and many states are fighting back with lawsuits.

The new drug is a tiny pill that dissolves instantly under the tongue to provide surgical patients a dose of sufentanil that is as powerful as 5 milligrams of morphine and up to 10 times more powerful than fentanyl. The drug company says it plans to make the pill available in medical settings and on the battlefield, and not in prescription form for the public. Critics say it is only a matter of time before these tiny pills hit the streets.

Women still fighting unfair wages

A new report by the American Association of University Women reveals that not much has improved for women in the workforce despite an outcry for change. Pay ratios between men and women in comparable jobs have narrowed only a negligible amount since 2000, meaning men as a whole earn about $500 billion more than women. Even with declining unemployment, the gap between gender salaries has not closed, and not all states have strong laws protecting women from unfair wages.

Tennessee ranked 19th in the country, with women earning 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is slightly above the national average of 80, but state laws against wage gaps are weak. Women of color seem to face a particularly difficult time obtaining a fair and equal wage, and older women have an additional struggle. The most glaring wage gaps appear in industries such as finance and accounting, retail supervisors and the medical field.

California court upholds survival award related to mesothelioma

The diagnosis and treatment of cancer has improved substantially in recent decades. Unfortunately, there are still certain kinds of cancer that do not have a known cure. Mesothelioma is one such cancer.

This aggressive and deadly cancer begins in the lining of your organs, most often the lungs. From there, it can spread to other parts of the body. While treatments can slow the progression, there is no known medical option that results in remission from mesothelioma. When those who develop mesothelioma as the result of environmental or workplace exposure die, their surviving family members can typically seek survivor benefits.

An overview of ERISA law

Not every employer is required to offer benefits beyond a salary. For example, no federal law mandates that a Tennessee business owner must provide a retirement plan or health insurance, but many do so as a way to entice good workers to remain faithful. Once an employer offers these benefits, however, federal law applies. This complex law falls under the governance of the U.S. Department of Labor and is called the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA.

Employers who offer benefits such as health insurance or retirement plans must provide their participants with critical information about how the plans work. For example, employees enrolled in a health care plan must have clear instructions about how to file for benefits, how the claims process works and any changes that the plan managers make. Participants must receive a written copy of the policies and instructions for how to appeal any claim denials.

Mass torts suit says 'natural' beverage is synthetic

As the Food and Drug Administration tightens rules on the information food and beverage packages must include, more Tennessee consumers are paying attention to the labels of the products they purchase for their families. Those who do so are typically looking for the counts of certain ingredients, such as sodium, calories or sugar, or they are looking for an overall quality of healthfulness. Unfortunately, not all labels are trustworthy, and one company is now facing mass torts actions because of confusing language on its product's label.

If a manufacturer wants to promote its product as organic, the product has to meet specific FDA definitions. No such definitions are in place for words like "natural," although one would expect such a label to mean the product contains nothing synthetic. This is the complaint in a class action lawsuit currently pending against the company that manufactures LaCroix sparkling water.

Wage and hour disputes often necessary due to violations

Having a love-hate relationship with money is something that many people in Tennessee and elsewhere struggle with. They may hate that they never seem to have enough money, but love that it allows them to provide for themselves and their families. When it turns out that employers are not properly compensating workers, that love-hate relationship could turn into wage and hour disputes.

One woman in another state recently filed a class-action lawsuit against a laundry business and its owner, for whom she worked for almost five years. Reports stated that the woman would work five or six days each week and 10 to 11 hours each day. The woman's employment with the company ended in August, though a reason was not given. Nonetheless, during the course of her employment, the woman was never given overtime pay.

Food services workers often victims of wage theft

Most people in Tennessee think they would know if someone were stealing from them. However, some thieves are slick and prey on those who may be vulnerable or lack the knowledge to realize they have been victimized. Wage theft is one example of stealing that is often too subtle to be recognized as theft, and the workers who are most often victims are those in food services.

Despite paying millions in fines and lawsuit settlements, some in the restaurant industry continue to violate their employees' right to fair wages. While these employers may not be blatantly withholding checks or deducting hours from time sheets, they take other steps to deny workers the wages they deserve. Some employers avoid paying their workers for work-related jobs, such as cleaning their uniforms, preparing their stations or cleaning equipment at the end of the shift. Others misclassify their workers to prevent their eligibility for earning overtime rates.

Understand ERISA violations before it is too late

Fewer Tennessee employees remain at one job for a lifetime as in generations past, so having a growing retirement plan is a good incentive to remain faithful to one company. However, devoting years to a company only to find one's retirement plan has been mismanaged can be a devastating blow. Understanding the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, also known as ERISA, is a good way to know whether one's plan is safe from unethical or incompetent management.

Not every employer is required by law to provide a retirement plan for his or her workers. Some may offer such a plan to entice quality employees or to retain workers they have trained and groomed. Although no law requires this incentive, once a company decides to offer it, the company must follow the rules of ERISA. ERISA covers all plans that are established by private companies, not those that are affiliated with governments, religious institutions or other nonprofit entities.

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