Nashville Legal Blog

African-American women face significant pay gap

Some African-American women in Tennessee may have experienced even greater disparities in pay than all women do as a group compared to men. In order to make the same amount of money that the average white, non-Hispanic man makes in 12 months, a black woman must work for 19 months. Black Women's Equal Pay Day, which fell on July 31, is an effort to raise awareness about this pay gap.

Other statistics give more detail about the income gap. On average, white non-Hispanic men who have graduated from high school make more than black women who have graduated from college. Furthermore, while African-American women are more likely to have a college degree and a job than African-American men, on average, they still only make 89 percent of the income of African-American men. Over a lifetime, this disparity can add up to as much as $1 million less in income despite the fact that well over three-fourths of black women mothers are the main breadwinners or co-breadwinners in their families.

The growing age discrimination class-action against Google

Tennessee residents may be interested in the latest information about the class-action lawsuit against Google that accuses the company of age discrimination. The case now involves 269 people who claim they were the target of such behavior.

The lawsuit began in 2015 with one plaintiff, and it was certified as a class action in 2016. Engineering job applicants who are represented in the case claim that they were turned down for jobs because of their age. A plaintiff who joined the case in 2015 said that a recruiter told her she had to include her graduation dates on her resume so that the company would know how old she is.

LGBT community loses the support of Justice Department

The LGBT community may no longer have the support of the executive branch of the federal government. A recent action by the Justice Department may have far reaching effects throughout the country as well as in Williamson County, Tennessee.

In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, an employee of a skydiving company said he was unfairly fired due to his sexual orientation. A prior decision by the EEOC supported his position and issued a right to sue letter. The employee then filed suit.

Extreme incident of discrimination can create hostile workplaces

Tennessee workers who face discrimination and harassment at work are likely aware of how much of an impact these incidents can have on workers' productivity, mental health and comfort in the workplace. While it can sometimes take a pattern of harassment or discrimination for a claim to potentially be successful in court, a federal appeals court ruled that, in extreme cases, an isolated discriminatory act could be enough to create a hostile work environment.

Two African-American men claimed that they were hired by a California-based staffing company as general laborers in 2010. During a fence-removal project, the two men said that a supervisor used a racially discriminatory word as they were working. They reportedly complained about the incident to a supervisor but were fired without explanation a couple of weeks later. The company rehired the men shortly after but then terminated them once again after claiming that there was no work for them to complete.

Tipped workers and the the 80/20 rule

The provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act require most employers in Tennessee and across the country to pay their workers at a rate no less than the federal minimum wage. Workers who claim that their employers have violated these requirements are often able to support their allegations by providing documents like pay stubs and time sheets that may be difficult to refute, but these cases can be far more challenging when the workers involved are employed by a restaurant and are compensated partly in tips.

While tipped workers are not generally protected by the minimum wage provision of the law, an exception is made for workers who perform two or more jobs. In these situations, the FLSA stipulates that workers must be paid minimum wage for their non-tipped duties. However, this exemption does not apply to tip-related work such as waiters or waitresses clearing tables and replenishing condiments.

Is the driver next to you texting? Do this…

It seems like every day there is a new story of some horrific traffic accident caused by a distracted driver. While many states have taken steps to ban cellphone use for people operating a vehicle, drivers still make the choice to talk, text or even update their Facebook statuses while behind the wheel. Recent studies have shown that people that try to text and drive are 23 times more likely to either cause a car accident or be involved in one.

Fortunately, there are signs you can look for the next time you drive through Brentwood that may alert you to a distracted driver. Since distracted drivers often display the same indicators that drunk drivers display, you may be familiar with some of the signs already.

Unpaid work and the FLSA

Workers in Tennessee should not perform work that is not compensated or is not applied to overtime. Employers are generally required by the Fair Labor Standards Act to pay overtime to employees who work over 40 hours a week.

The FLSA provides protections for a majority of employees, including protections related to overtime and minimum wages. The legislation exempts employees who work in administrative, professional or executive positions as well as those who are employed in specific industries, like farming or sales based on commissions. The FLSA requires that all non-exempt employees are paid for all of the hours that they work.

EEOC commissioner vows to keep sexual harassment a priority issue

Now that the Trump administration has assumed its position in the government, it seems apparent that there could be some sweeping changes in regard to federal policies and regulations. As an employee, you may feel concerned that these changes will affect your rights in the workplace. This sense of insecurity is quite reasonable when you consider that President Trump and the Republican party reportedly want to roll back no less than 75 percent of certain business regulations.

However, at a recent employment law conference, an Equal Employment Opportunity commissioner offered some reassuring words. The commissioner stated that sexual harassment will retain a top priority status within the EEOC.

Back pay awards in employment discrimination cases

Tennessee employees who pursue workplace discrimination lawsuits under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act may be awarded damages for back pay if they prevail. Courts award back pay to compensate workers for income that they would and should have received if they had not been discriminated against, and these awards may include unpaid bonuses, vacation pay, pension benefits and health care costs as well as salary. Back pay awards are generally made by federal judges because they are considered a form of equitable relief. Legal relief awards, such as punitive and compensatory damages, are usually determined by juries.

When determining awards for back pay, judges compare the compensation and fringe benefits that workers received with the amounts that they would have obtained absent the discrimination. The time period studied generally runs from the date of the employer's unlawful action until a judgment is entered on behalf of the worker. Workers may be awarded back pay for a period of up to two years before they file workplace discrimination litigation.

The impact of wage discrimination

Almost any Tennessee employee can be a victim of wage discrimination. Women, men and older workers all face problems when it comes to equal pay, and workers with disabilities also have problems when it comes to being paid the same as others. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 15 percent of wage discrimination claims were filed by men over the past four fiscal years.

Most wage discrimination claims are filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This statute provides protection against wage and other forms of discrimination based on gender, national origin and other attributes. The Equal Pay Act is another law under which gender-based wage discrimination claims may be filed. Approximately 20 percent of wage discrimination claims during the period studies were based on age, and about 10 percent were filed claiming discrimination because of disability.

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