Articles Posted in Employment Law

pexels-energepiccom-313690-300x225When an employee departs from a company either voluntarily or involuntarily, the parties often agree to enter into a separation agreement whereupon the employer pays the employee an amount of severance pay in exchange for a release of legal claims against the employer.

On the one hand a separation agreement can be a fair and amicable way to end an employment relationship. It benefits the departing employee who receives some form of compensation. It also gives the employer peace of mind because the agreement, if written concisely and in detail, will greatly reduce the likelihood of post termination lawsuits.

However, on the other hand, upon signing a separation agreement, an employee may be waiving or resolving valuable claims for substantially less than what he or she is owed. Alternatively, an employer who has entered into an employee separation agreement without legal counsel might find that the separation agreement resulted in   severance compensation for the employee that was unnecessarily generous.

Is Operating a Business Out of Your Home Illegal in Nashville? 

With over 1,600 home-based businesses operating in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, could it be true that many of them are illegal?¹ Section 17.16.250 of Title 17 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws that governs residential zoning ordinances contains a provision regarding “home occupations”.² The term home occupations refers to the practice of individuals operating small businesses from their residential homes. The provision prohibits the home occupations, or home businesses, from performing services for customers on their residential property. For many home businesses, customers and customer interaction are the sole source of profit. In “Music City,” a community full of artists, musicians, and other creative professionals, this ordinance presents several problems for those wanting to teach music and art or even to create music and art with other professionals in the industry.  

This exact zoning ordinance presented an issue for a local Nashville music producer, Lij Shaw. Since 2015, Mr. Shaw has been in a battle with the City of Nashville to shut down the prosperous music studio located in his residential home. Mr. Shaw first received a letter from the city demanding his home music studio be closed and no longer open for business. Two years later, Mr. Shaw partnered with Pat Raynor, an individual running a hair salon out of her home and protested the residential zoning ordinance in court. The legal battle between Mr. Shaw and the City of Nashville was recently heard by the Supreme Court of Tennessee. The decision of the Supreme Court of Tennessee will not be released for several months.  

Employment Discrimination Claims in Tennessee

Authored by Paul Tennison, Law Clerk, Cole Law Group, P.C.

Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice and is only intended to give a bit of background information about employment discrimination law under Federal and Tennessee statutes. Each employment discrimination case is different, and there are tactical considerations about when to sue and what claims to bring. For legal advice applicable to your specific situation, always contact an attorney licensed in your state.

On May 11, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which hears appeals from federal district courts in Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio, issued its opinion in Mayhew v. Town of Smyrna, Tennessee, which focused on a public employee’s First Amendment free speech rights.

The Plaintiff was the lab supervisor for Smyrna’s wastewater treatment plant. His work duties included ensuring that the plant met governmental regulations and quality-control standards. The Plaintiff reported to the plant manager that one of the supervisors was engaging in questionable conduct regarding water sample evaluations and hindering the Plaintiff’s ability to perform his work duties. Eventually, the supervisor was promoted to plant manager and, after different dialogues, including the Plaintiff complaining about the promotion process and a meeting about the Plaintiff’s ability and willingness to work with the new plant manager, the Plaintiff’s employment was terminated. The Plaintiff filed a Tennessee Public Protection Act claim, which was eventually refiled in Tennessee state court, and a First Amendment claim, which the district court ruled on in favor of the Defendant pursuant to summary judgment and the Sixth Circuit reviewed on appeal.

The Sixth Circuit set forth the legal framework for a First Amendment free speech analysis for public employees. Three elements must be met in order for speech by a public employee to have possible First Amendment protection. The employee must: (1) speak on matters of public concern, (2) speak as a private citizen and not as an employee, and (3) have individual speech interests that outweigh the state’s interest in promoting efficient public services (Opinion, p. 6).

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