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Topic: Sexual Harassment

Tennessee Retaliatory Discharge Claims Against Employers

Posted on Mar 11 2018 2:43PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Tennessee has a statute that protects employees from employers who terminate an employee in retaliation for reporting illegal activities. This statute is found in T.C.A. § 50-1-304 and is called the Tennessee “Retaliatory Discharge” statute.  The design of the statute is to protect employees from being terminated solely for opposing or speaking up about illegal activities at the employer.  It is a whistleblower protection statute that is important to protect employees who have the courage to speak up about illegal activities.

 

The most important sections of this statute are found which describe the intent and purpose of the statute are found in subsection (b), (c) and (f) as follows:

 

(b) No employee shall be discharged or terminated solely for refusing to participate in, or for refusing to remain silent about, illegal activities.

(c)(1) Any employee terminated in violation of subsection (b) shall have a cause of action against the employer for retaliatory discharge and any other damages to which the employee may be entitled, subject to the limitations set out in § 4-21-313.

(2) Any employee terminated in violation of subsection (b) solely for refusing to participate in, or for refusing to remain silent about, illegal activities who prevails in a cause of action against an employer for retaliatory discharge for the actions shall be entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees and costs.

……….

 (f) In any civil cause of action for retaliatory discharge brought pursuant to this section, or in any civil cause of action alleging retaliation for refusing to participate in or remain silent about illegal activities, the plaintiff shall have the burden of establishing a prima facie case of retaliatory discharge. If the plaintiff satisfies this burden, the burden shall then be on the defendant to produce evidence that one (1) or more legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons existed for the plaintiff's discharge. The burden on the defendant is one of production and not persuasion. If the defendant produces such evidence, the presumption of discrimination raised by the plaintiff's prima facie case is rebutted, and the burden shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate that the reason given by the defendant was not the true reason for the plaintiff's discharge and that the stated reason was a pretext for unlawful retaliation. The foregoing allocations of burdens of proof shall apply at all stages of the proceedings, including motions for summary judgment. The plaintiff at all times retains the burden of persuading the trier of fact that the plaintiff has been the victim of unlawful retaliation.

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TAGS: Employment Law, Sexual Harassment Comments [0]
  
 

Tennessee Caps on Damages for Sexual Harassment Cases

Posted on Feb 7 2018 6:42PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Tennessee sexual harassment cases that are brought against an employer are governed by the Tennessee Human Rights Act. The underlying basis for claims against an employer for sexual harassment fall under the provision in T.C.A. § 4-21-401 that provides that it is a discriminatory practice for an employer to “fail or refuse to hire or discharge any person or otherwise to discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of such individual’s race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin…”.  Sexual harassment cases fall within this section and I have previously discussed the Tennessee law standard for a sexual harassment case in my prior blog post here.

 

It is important to note that there are specific caps on damages for Tennessee sexual harassment claims (as well as other discriminatory causes of action brought against employers under the Tennessee Human Rights Act). Specifically, this statute provides the following in T.C.A. § 4-21-313:

 

(a) For any cause of action arising under § 4-21-401, § 8-50-103, or § 50-1-304, the sum of the amount of compensatory damages awarded for future pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other nonpecuniary losses, shall not exceed, for each complaining party:

(1) In the case of a cause of action arising under § 50-1-304 and an employer who has less than eight (8) employees at the time the cause of action arose, twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000);

(2) In the case of an employer who has eight (8) or more but fewer than fifteen (15) employees at the time the cause of action arose, twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000);

(3) In the case of an employer who has more than fourteen (14) and fewer than one hundred one (101) employees at the time the cause of action arose, fifty thousand dollars ($50,000);

(4) In the case of an employer who has more than one hundred (100) and fewer than two hundred one (201) employees at the time the cause of action arose, one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000);

(5) In the case of an employer who has more than two hundred (200) and fewer than five hundred one (501) employees at the time the cause of action arose, two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000); and

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TAGS: Damages, Employment Law, Sexual Harassment Comments [0]
  
 

Sexual Harassment and Sexually Hostile Work Environment Claims in Tennessee – General Overview

Posted on Oct 3 2017 5:25PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Sexual Harassment and Sexually Hostile Work Environment claims are both recognized in Tennessee under state law and federal Law (pursuant to Title VII).  These are very significant claims often involving the harassment of a female by a male supervisor or co-worker.  The standards for an employer’s liability are different under each of those scenarios (this will be discussed in a subsequent blog post on this topic).  It is important to note that Tennessee courts often look to federal law for guidance on interpretation of Tennessee’s own discrimination statutes, because they are so similar.


A sexual harassment “quid pro quo” claim in Tennessee is established using the following elements to support the cause of action:

 

(1) that the employee was a member of a protected class; (2) that the employee was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment in the form of sexual advances or requests for sexual favors; (3) that the harassment complained of was based on sex; (4) that the employee's submission to the unwelcome advances was an express or implied condition for receiving job benefits or that the employee's refusal to submit to the supervisor's demands resulted in a tangible job detriment; and (5) the existence of respondeat superior liability.

Sanders v. Lanier, 968 S.W.2d 787, 789 (Tenn. 1998).  This type of claim mainly focuses on unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.  Believe it or not, these situations are much more common than you would think.  Federal law has similar protections against this type of action in the workplace.

Another type of claim under Tennessee law is a sexually hostile work environment claim.  This is based on sexual harassment of an employee based on their sex.  Often, this could involve crude sexual jokes, sexual comments, inappropriate touching or grabbing and other similar conduct – most often directed at women.  Tennessee courts have provided the following as the elements required for this type of case in Tennessee:

 

To prevail on a hostile work environment claim in a sexual harassment case, an employee must assert and prove that (1)...

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TAGS: Torts, Employment Law, Sexual Harassment, Miscellaneous Comments [0]
  
 
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com

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