Nashville Legal Blog

Inadequate product testing causes recalls, crashes and injuries

Companies that develop consumer goods and products are often so eager to get new items to market that they don't always do adequate research or testing. The end result for failure to test products properly or ensure manufacturing quality is often a recall. Recalls happen when companies advise both the government and consumers that a product may have safety issues.

Typically, consumers can return recalled products for a refund, although, in some cases, replacement parts or products are the preferred solution. When a recall has to do with components used in a motor vehicle, the procedure almost invariably involves the requirement to report the issue and present the vehicle to a dealership for replacement.

Tech employees protest arbitration for workplace discrimination

Some employees in Tennessee may discover that their terms of employment will force them to enter into arbitration if they have complaints about workplace discrimination. This practice is especially pervasive in the technology sector, which is why a group of employee activists at Google has organized a social media protest to criticize forced arbitration. They say the practice gives employers the advantage and tends to reduce settlements for wrongdoing.

The group intends to post messages on Twitter and Instagram with facts about the problem, statements from employees and expert interviews. Studies indicate that workers usually lose their cases to employers in arbitration. When they do win, the settlements are generally lower than the amounts collected by people who go to court.

Former Blizzard employee complains of racial harassment

For many people in the gaming world in Tennessee, working at Blizzard is a career goal. However, several developers and former employees at the video game company have come forward to discuss incidents of racial discrimination, harassment and abuse. One former employee said that he has complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about his experience at the firm. He said that he was subjected to racial abuse while working with the company's "Hearthstone" game's e-sports unit through grueling, lengthy shifts.

As a full-time employee, the man said that he was the target of racial insults on the job. One co-worker accused him of being prone to harassing others because he was Mexican. He said that these repeated comments provoked severe depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. He said that all of this began after a debate about gendered words in the English and Spanish languages at the job, after which a formerly friendly co-worker accused him of being sexist. Despite being born Mexican herself, the former employee says that she directed racial harassment at him due to his national origin and ethnicity.

Employees can seek help in discrimination cases

Employers in Tennessee are required by law to provide certain protections to their employees. Among the required protections is a safe work environment that's free from workplace discrimination and harassment. Employers are prohibited from discriminating based on sex, religion, race, national origin, color, pregnancy, age and other factors. For employees who believe they have experienced or are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, there are steps that can be taken.

The employee should make the employer aware of the situation. Many illegal discriminatory or harassing acts are not punished or recognized because the employee never informs anyone about it. While the employer is responsible for obeying the applicable laws, it is the employee's responsibility to protect his or her own rights. For this reason, it's also important for the employee to keep a record of harassing or discriminatory incidents. A simple diary will suffice in most cases. The employee should make a record of the location, witnesses, parties involved, date, time and details of the incident.

Employers, employees can take steps to combat harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace has taken a prominent position in the news stories of Tennessee and the rest of the country. Former CEO of the CBS Corporation Les Moonves was denied an exit payment of $120 million after the company determined he had been misleading regarding sexual misconduct allegations. Employers have an obligation to deal with discrimination in the workplace and to ensure employees are provided a safe place to work. In addition, employees should not be afraid to stand up for themselves and assert their rights.

Exposing harassing behavior brings awareness and accountability. It can lead to policy changes in the relevant companies or in the law. When employees and employers are proactive about the situation, sexual harassment can be addressed, punished and reduced.

Sexual harassment initiative pursued by entertainment unions

The #MeToo movement has drawn increasing attention to the problem of workplace sexual harassment in Nashville and across the country. The entertainment industry, from music to movies, has been a particularly significant target of the campaign as serious examples of sexual assault have been revealed in a number of reports, lawsuits and personal stories shared on social media. As a result, several large labor unions in the industry have come together to create a pledge against sexual harassment.

The unions involved in the effort include Actors' Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, American Federation of Musicians, the Directors' Guild of America and the Writers' Guild of America, East. The alliance came out of a meeting on Dec. 13 in which the unions agreed to share codes of conduct, contract language and best practices to deal with sexual harassment across the industry. In the year since harassment in entertainment became a major news story, SAG-AFTRA has adopted a number of initiatives on workplace harassment. The union has called for an end to the convening of professional meetings at homes and private hotel rooms, saying that these environments have led to exploitation, harassment and even sexual assault.

Know the difference: Joking or harassment?

In the workplace, women (and sometimes men) are vulnerable to harassment from employees, third parties and even their bosses. It is a sad reality that many people have to worry about what they say or do each day, just so that they can avoid awkward or potentially dangerous situations with others.

For some, the stress of facing harassment every day finally leads to quitting their jobs or looking for somewhere new to work while calling out sick often or using up vacation days. Others give in and give the harasser exactly what they want, whether it's a relationship or sexual favors. They may believe that it is the only way to keep their jobs or to continue growing with the company.

Sexual harassment scandal prompts television network grants

Television viewers in Tennessee and across the country have raised concerns about CBS' record on sexual harassment, and the company is responding as a result. After the former chairman and CEO of the network, Les Moonves, was fired from his position after a series of harassment complaints, the network has announced $20 million in gifts to organizations fighting discrimination against women in the workplace. The network said that the donations are meant to support the organizations' work and highlight the network's commitment to bolstering an anti-harassment culture in the workplace.

The funds to support the women's organizations are coming from Moonves' severance package. Moonves is seeking the remaining $120 million of his contractual severance, but CBS has indicated that they will not pay as he was fired for cause. The groups that will receive grants include Time's Up, Girls for Gender Equity (MeToo Movement) and Women in Film Los Angeles in addition to the anti-rape organization RAINN. Furthermore, the network will donate part of the grant to two larger foundations to disburse grants to smaller groups also campaigning against sexual harassment. The organizations thanked CBS for the grants and urged public disclosure of the results of the investigation into Moonves' conduct.

Watch for warning signs of distraction in vehicles near yours

Distraction leads to a large number of motor vehicle accidents every year. There is no clear statistic on exactly how many crashes distraction actually causes. Statistics regarding the reason for a collision typically rely on eyewitness reports or self-reported behavior from those involved in the crash. Many individuals are loath to admit that distraction played a part in a collision.

Unless the distraction directly resulted from the use of a cellphone, it is very difficult to prove distraction. However, this doesn't mean that it is that difficult to spot if you pay close attention to nearby vehicles.

Not all sexual harassment cases get reported

Workplace harassment that takes place in Tennessee and other states is likely to go unreported. If it does get reported, it may mean negative consequences for the person who did so. This was the takeaway from an analysis of harassment charges brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and similar state agencies from 2012 to 2016.

In a given year, only 9,200 people file charges of harassment. However, it is believed that up to 5 million people per year experience it based on survey data. While it appears that the EEOC takes allegations seriously, only 1,800 cases per year are resolved favorably. One reason that employees are unlikely to report sexual harassment is that alleged employer retaliation occurs in 68 percent of cases. Levels of retaliation and job loss remain relatively steady regardless of the race or gender of the person who made the report.

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