Tennessee News & Analysis

  • Heightened scrutiny of employee's mental health not discriminatory

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (whose rulings apply to all Tennessee employers) affirmed that a former employee couldn't succeed on his disability discrimination claim against his former employer because he failed to rebut evidence that he missed too many days and his colleagues had become concerned about his ongoing mental health issues.

  • IRS authorizes more preventive services to be paid by HSA-eligible health plans

    The IRS recently issued guidance expanding the definition of "preventive care" that may be covered—possibly free of charge—by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) that's paired with a health savings account (HSA). While the changes made by the guidance are relatively simple, they have the potential to make HSAs substantially more attractive, particularly to employees who have a chronic condition that is controlled by medication or therapy. Before diving too far into the details, however, it's important to have a solid understanding of HSAs and how they work.

  • Association retirement plans may not be ready for prime time

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently finalized regulations allowing multiple employers to offer a retirement plan to their employees through a combined association retirement plan (ARP). In what is becoming a common theme for the agency under President Donald Trump, the new rules are intended to make it easier for small to mid-sized employers to offer such plans to their employees. While they are similar to rules finalized last year that established a new type of association health plan, they go even further by establishing guidelines for professional employer organizations (PEOs) to sponsor retirement plans for their members' employees. Unfortunately, they also may face some of the same problems as those rules, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

  • Lack of knowledge by decision makers renders disability case impossible

    A recent decision by the 6th Circuit granted an employer summary judgment (dismissal in its favor without a trial) when its former employee who had been demoted failed to show the decision makers knew she is disabled. The court further held that whatever knowledge the HR professionals gained about her disability after her demotion didn't create a presumption that the decision makers had the same knowledge.

  • Overtime changes—an opportunity in disguise? Minimum salary thresholds increased

    By now, most readers have heard that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued a new final rule raising the minimum salary amount an employer must pay certain employees in order to take advantage of the "white-collar" exemptions and avoid paying overtime. Generally, the white-collar exemptions apply to employees who primarily perform duties in a bona fide administrative, executive, professional, and/or computer-related capacity.

  • Workplace Trends

    Texting gaining popularity in hiring process. More employers and job candidates are using texting as a communication method, according to research from Robert Half Technology. More than two-thirds (67%) of IT decision makers surveyed said their organization uses texting as one way of coordinating interviews with job candidates. Nearly half (48%) of U.S. workers polled in a similar survey said they've received a text message from a potential employer. When asked about the greatest advantage of texting during the hiring process, quick communication was the top response among IT managers and workers. They also acknowledged the greatest drawback was the possibility of miscommunication.

  • Nashville Trump supporter fired over Facebook post wins trial

    Government employees enjoy more protection than employees of private-sector companies when it comes to speaking their minds about politics or other matters of public concern outside the workplace. A public employee may not be fired or disciplined for engaging in "constitutionally protected" speech. To be constitutionally protected, the speech must be on a "matter of public concern," the employee must be acting in her capacity as a private citizen rather than in her official duties as a government worker, and the speech must outweigh the employer's interest in "promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs." That delicate balance was recently tested when a Nashville government worker was fired after using the "n" word in a social media post.

  • Chicken fingers and cat's paws: 6th Circuit reinstates fired employee's USERRA claims

    Under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), employers are prohibited from taking adverse employment actions against employees because they are servicemembers or are obligated to perform military service. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (which oversees federal courts in Tennessee) recently addressed whether a supervisor's comments about terminating an employee who was a member of the National Guard were evidence of wrongful termination when the supervisor wasn't the ultimate decision maker. The court held that the internal investigation and the termination decision by individuals other than the problematic manager didn't break the "chain of causation" between the manager's potential discriminatory animus and the employee's termination.

  • Individual coverage HRAs probably not option for 2020

    On his very first day in office, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order instructing federal agencies to lessen the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) burden on the organizations and individuals who were subject to its requirements. More than two years later, the ACA is limping along, but the Trump administration is still working to carry out that order.

  • 'Go back to where you came from': employer liability when workers say xenophobic things

    President Donald Trump's recent Tweet suggesting that four Democratic congresswomen should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came" has sparked robust debate across the country. So what happens when an employee tells a coworker something to the effect of "go back to where you came from"?