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VOL. 127 | NO. 233 | Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bar Seminar to Discuss Latest Labor Issues

By Andy Meek

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Talk of several prominent employment law issues and challenges – with insight gleaned from leading national legal figures – will be part of next week’s daylong annual seminar of the Memphis Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Law Section.

Guests scheduled to speak at the Dec. 7 seminar at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn include two members of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board. During one session, U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Julia Gibbons also will make some remarks.

The seminar will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., with a cocktail reception to follow. Title sponsors include IPSCO-Insurance Planning & Service Co. Inc., BankTennessee and Alpha Reporting Corp.

“Every year we have this same setup to update lawyers who practice in this area as well as human resources personnel about things like state employment law issues and then Supreme Court and federal law issues,” said Mary Hamm, an associate with Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC.

The way the day breaks down, Hamm will be part of the day’s leadoff presentation updating attendees on Tennessee state law issues and changes. After that will come a Supreme Court and Sixth Circuit Court presentation, at which Gibbons – who was first appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 – will be among the speakers.

“Every year we have this same setup to update lawyers who practice in this area as well as human resources personnel about things like state employment law issues and then Supreme Court and federal law issues.”

–Mary Hamm
Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC

Next will come a presentation with an update from Solomon, a career NLRB attorney who was named acting general counsel of the body by President Barack Obama as of June 21, 2010. And then a separate presentation will review significant labor and employment law jury verdicts this year in local federal court.

“(Solomon) is going to talk about labor issues and what’s hot in that area for employers,” Hamm said. “One of the interesting things that’s been happening over the past couple of years is with social media, where employees will complain on Facebook or Twitter about their jobs and then they get disciplined or terminated for it.”

Following his insight on that and other issues, the EEOC commissioners will speak at a panel of their own. They are Chai Feldblum, who was nominated to the body by Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a term ending in 2013, and Victoria Lipnic, who was nominated by Obama and confirmed by the Senate for a term ending in 2015.

“They’re just going to update everybody about the EEOC’s work over the past year,” Hamm said. “The commission has issued some guidance on employers doing criminal background checks. And basically they’re taking the position that when employers do that, it has a disparate impact on, say, African-American or Hispanic individuals. That’s going to be one topic we think they’ll speak about.”

Katharine Kores, district director for the EEOC Memphis office, will moderate the panel that includes the two EEOC commissioners.

“They’re both very engaging speakers and interested in making a lot of requirements clear to everyone,” Kores said. “The commission is in the process of devising its strategic enforcement plan, which will identify the commission’s enforcement priorities for the next several years, so I expect them to talk about what they think the priorities will be.

“Another thing the commission did last year was an enforcement guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions, particularly in hiring decisions. Also, an interesting topic they could address is the broader view of sex discrimination coverage under Title 7.”

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