Amid their late-session surge in activity, state lawmakers this week passed a bill reforming several aspects of workplace-related litigation. Among other things, the changes cap compensatory damages that can be awarded — aligning state statutes with their federal counterparts — and streamlines the path for whistleblower claims. Baker Donelson attorneys Ben Bodzy and Larry Eastwood, who drafted most of the legislation, have a summary here.
Under the new legislation, an employee may only proceed under the statutory claim, which requires the employee to prove that the alleged whistleblowing was the "sole cause" of the termination. This effectuates the legislature's "sole cause" standard already incorporated into the TPPA, and it prevents employees from invoking the common law's lower causation standard. The effect of this legislation will be to facilitate the defense of questionable whistleblower claims.
SEE ALSO: The bill summary from The General Assembly's website
State lawmakers on Monday sent to Gov. Bill Haslam a bill that will hit with damages and costs entities filing bad-faith patent infringement cases — so called "patent trolls" — against Tennessee companies. A trio of Bass Berry & Sims attorneys has some insights on the legislation.
Under the bill, intended recipients of communications that meet any of these requirements may file suit in any Tennessee circuit or chancery court. Those who prevail shall be awarded litigation costs and fees, including attorneys’ fees, and may be awarded actual damages as well as punitive damages equal to three times the amount of actual damages. In addition, the office of the attorney general is empowered to enforce the bill through its investigative and prosecutorial authority.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled that the use by the makers of MoonPies and RC Cola of a more than 30-year-old photograph did not violate the rights of the area resident depicted. Bradley Wells had sued CBI and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group two summers ago, claiming the companies had, among other things, violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and unjustly enriched themselves off his image. But the defendants won the day both in trial court and before the appeals judges by arguing that the case centered on federal copyright issues and this couldn't be heard in local courts.
Bone McAllester Norton attorney Stephen Zralek writes here about how he helped win the case.
This case highlights the intersection between the right of publicity and copyright, serving as a reminder that questions of preemption are always decided on a case by case basis. Not all photographs qualify for protection under either copyright law or the right of publicity; sometimes they invoke rights under one body of law, sometimes both and sometimes neither. The legal nuances surrounding copyright and the right of publicity are complicated, rapidly evolving and sometimes overlapping.
Pamela DeSoto is the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed Monday afternoon, alleging that the 31-year Park Police veteran was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation, gender, race, and age. The suit names the Metro Government and the Board of Parks and Recreation, as well as Parks director Tommy Lynch, several Parks Police officers, and a Metro IT employee.
DeSoto's complaint also says that she has been prevented from "obtaining promotions and pay raises for which she was more qualified than her peers." All that led her to file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2002.
After that, according to DeSoto's complaint, the discrimination continued, albeit in a less overt manner. DeSoto fought for years, the complaint says, to have a women's restroom built in the Parks Police headquarters. One was eventually put in, although she claims male officers began using the women's restroom. After she complained, the complaint claims the department simply made both restrooms unisex.
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