Tennessee Legal Blog

Mass torts claims growing against e-cig companies

For many Tennessee adults trying to cut back on their cigarette smoking habits, the advent of e-cigarettes seemed like a blessing. Smokers could replace their tobacco cigarettes with vape products that supposedly contain fewer toxic ingredients. They could then reduce the amount of nicotine and gradually quit smoking altogether. However, this hasn't been the result, and mass torts actions across the country claim e-cig companies have created a whole new generation of smokers.

The class action lawsuit targets Juul, but numerous other vape companies have received stern notices from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has warned the companies that they have 60 days to demonstrate they are not targeting or selling their products to teens. More than 1,000 e-cig retailers have also been issued similar warnings.

You can still be exposed to asbestos through these products

Most people think that the risk of asbestos exposure in the United States is very slim. However, there are still many products that the U.S. imports that contain asbestos. This means that if you work in an industry that regularly uses these products, you could come into contact with asbestos and develop mesothelioma.

While many of these products are subject to regulations that limit the presence of asbestos to 1 percent, continuous contact over long periods of time can be enough to cause serious illness. If you come into regular contact with one of these products that contain asbestos, take extra precautions to limit your exposure.

Wage and hour disputes related to rest and meal breaks

Every state has its rules governing the amount of time employers are required to provide for their workers to rest and eat. Rest breaks and meal breaks are not obligated by every state, but some, such as Tennessee, do require meal breaks for workers. It is not uncommon for employees and their bosses to face wage and hour disputes regarding these breaks. There are important facts to understand about the law in order for workers to recognize when an employer is denying them their rights.

There is no federal law ordering employers to allow workers time for breaks during the work day. However, states or even individual employers may provide such breaks. When a state law requires rest periods during the workday, an employer must comply. Frequently, as in Tennessee, a meal break is 30 minutes or more of unpaid time during which an employer may not require the worker to complete work-related duties, such as answering the phone.

Universities accused of violating ERISA with self-dealing

Employee retirement plans are meant to provide financial security for those who invest in them. Depending on the type of plan, there may be numerous benefits, including tax breaks and ease of savings by having contributions and fees deducted directly from one's paycheck. As with any investment, there is a measure of trust that those charged with managing the funds will act in an upright manner, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, also known as ERISA, sets guidelines for the ethical administration of plans.

Tennessee employees would be wise to be vigilant about the management of their retirement funds. The retirees of Duke University recently learned that the fiduciaries of their plan were supposedly engaged in self-dealing, and it was not the first time the institution had faced such allegations. Self-dealing occurs when a plan's trustees use plan funds for their personal gain rather than the good of the contributors. In this case, Duke is accused of paying its employees' salaries with money from the retirement plan.

Nannies and domestic workers often face wage theft

For many, finding a job right out of high school or college is not part of the plan. Some choose to find work that provides a different kind of experience than the usual retail or corporate world offers. Being a nanny is one attractive way to earn money and gain experience for those who love children and may be considering a career in education or child care. However, it is not always easy to find a family that knows and is willing to follow the laws that protect nannies from wage theft.

Those in Tennessee who are considering offering their services as a nanny should keep in mind that this job is different from being a babysitter where the parents hand over a few dollars at the end of an evening. Federal law considers nannies to be domestic employees, along with senior caregivers and housekeepers. Domestic employees are nonexempt, meaning the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to them.

Victims file mass torts claim against voyeur

The legal system allows more than one plaintiff to join in a single action called a class action or mass tort lawsuit. When many people in Tennessee think of mass torts cases, they likely think of consumers or employees suing large companies for unfair treatment since many such cases receive a lot of press. However, that is not always the case, and one lawsuit in another state involves numerous people seeking restitution from a single person.

The man in question recently pleaded guilty to federal crimes that involved child exploitation and pornography. These charges stem from allegations that the man placed video cameras in numerous restrooms in the area. He was able to do this apparently without suspicion because he worked as a custodian for a commercial janitorial company. Among his employer's clients were a car dealership, a TV news station and a children's dance studio.

Advisor duties depend on ERISA requirements

Over 90 percent of those polled in Tennessee and across the country agree that a financial advisor should act in the best interests of his or her clients just as a doctor or lawyer does. Physicians and attorneys take oaths promising to uphold the best interests of those who entrust them with their medical or legal issues, but financial advisors do not. Because an appellate court recently overturned the Department of Labor attempts to clarify the role of advisors under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, also called ERISA, many may wonder how to protect themselves.

In many cases, a financial advisor may be trying to sell a product, and the more the client purchases, the bigger the commission for the advisor. However, implementing rules to restrain advisors from offering guidance without fear of litigation would apparently be expensive for the financial advising industry and cost prohibitive for those seeking advice on their investments. This is why it is important for investors to understand when their advisors are fiduciaries and when they are simply salespeople.

Potential expansion of asbestos use highlights cancer risk

For decades, scientists and medical professionals have known there is a link between asbestos exposure and deadly cancers. Mesothelioma, in particular, is often linked with asbestos exposure. Many people end up exposed through work or by a loved one who works with asbestos. Many years or decades after exposure, people end up very sick and facing potentially staggering medical bills for care that may extend, but not truly save, their lives.

As the government considers potentially increasing the domestic use of asbestos, there should also be a conversation about workers' rights and the potential risk. After all, mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that currently does not have a known cure. Workers who end up developing mesothelioma will very likely end up debilitatingly sick before eventually dying.

Wage and hour dispute clarifies trivial time off the clock

People spend a few minutes doing little things all day long. At the end of the day, they often wonder where the time went. A little time spent waiting for traffic lights, watching commercials or playing just one more game on one's phone adds up to many minutes or even hours. If a Tennessee worker spends the day doing tasks that take just a few minutes, it may not be such a big deal, unless those tasks are completed off the clock. One state has clarified a wage and hour dispute regarding off-the-clock assignments at a national coffee chain.

Starbucks is no stranger to employee complaints about unfair treatment, and in this case, workers at one branch of the franchise say their employer made them clock out to complete closing tasks. The employer claimed to be following federal law which allows workers to perform duties off the clock if the time spent on the task is too trivial to count. However, one employee fought for six years to get the state's highest court to agree with his interpretation of the law.

Mass torts claims common regarding asbestos exposure

It is no secret that asbestos exposure places one at high risk for contracting deadly diseases such as mesothelioma. This lung cancer does not appear until decades after the inhalation of asbestos particles, and it greatly diminishes the victim's quality of life. Those in Tennessee and across the country who discover they have contracted the disease may join others who were similarly exposed in mass torts actions against anyone who failed to protect them from the dangerous substance.

The residents of one neighborhood in another state watched helplessly as workers renovated a dilapidated factory that had been abandoned two decades before. From the earliest stages of the renovations, the residents began experiencing strange and debilitating illnesses. Some of the neighbors contacted the company doing the renovations, but the company assured them there was no danger. Plastic sheets were hung around the building to prevent asbestos dust from becoming airborne into the neighborhood, but the plastic blew and tore in the wind.

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