Labor & Employment

Positive human relationships and interactions drive business success. To help advance this paradigm, we advise clients on labor and employment matters from a perspective that connects their dynamic labor and human resources needs with affirmative strategies. We partner with clients to provide creative, innovative and practical solutions to business problems that have legal ramifications. We seek to strike the balance between firmness and fairness, between a client’s operational needs to be efficient and cultural demands to be accommodating. In doing so, we strive to solve problems before they escalate to litigation or administrative proceedings, while also positioning our clients for the best defense.

Our clients include union and non-union companies as well as public and private employers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small locally-owned businesses. We represent a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, retail, distribution, utilities, communication, transportation, service, retail food sales and education.

Our counsel in labor and employment matters can be divided into three broad categories:

  • Employment counseling, training and auditing
  • Employment litigation
  • Traditional labor law

Chambers USA consistently recognizes Bass, Berry & Sims as one of the top labor & employment law firms in Tennessee. In its most recent edition, Chambers researchers featured feedback from client interviews, including: “‘They are very responsive and clearly have institutional expertise in labor and employment matters,’ and ‘They have the deepest resources and they’re quality lawyers.'” (from Chambers USA 2018) An earlier issue of Chambers described the team as “very thorough and provid[ing] a Rolls-Royce quality of work.” (from Chambers USA 2015)

Areas of Focus

  • Employment Counseling, Training & Auditing

    Our model focuses on day-to-day counseling that builds deep relationships such that clients call us prior to taking action that may lead to litigation. We stand ready to advise on compliance with employment related law and regulations on both the federal and state level. We also provide in-office counseling and training to human resource managers, front line managers and supervisors on preventing and resolving issues before they become lawsuits.

    Our counseling and training programs cover a wide breadth of employment related matters, including but not limited to:

    • Effective management and a general understanding of unlawful discrimination and retaliation issues
    • Leave issues including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
    • ADA accommodation issues
    • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
    • Sexual harassment
    • Wage and hour
    • Reductions in force
    • Privacy
    • Union avoidance
    • Social media
    • Investigations

    We also have a dynamic audit practice, which, if desired, allows a client to be proactive in identifying potential problems and resolving them before they become crises. These services include:

    • Performing of wage and hour audits.
    • Formulating, reviewing and revising employee handbooks and the policies and procedures within them.
    • Conducting investigations or coaching clients through investigations on an as needed basis.
  • Employment Litigation

    We understand that defending employment litigation is expensive and time consuming for every client. We also understand that clients adopt different philosophies regarding how to respond to employment litigation. For every client, regardless of philosophy, our approach is the same – understanding the exposure as early as possible, developing the best defense possible, being ever mindful of the cost associated with the defense and providing our clients an ongoing opportunity to assess the best approach for the business along the way.

    While we are aggressive litigators, we know that reaching the best outcomes for our clients involves skillful negotiation and efforts to avert expensive litigation through early assessment. Our approach is to resolve disputes in a way that protects culture while minimizing costs. Most often, this leads to settlement outside of court; however, if litigation is unavoidable, we provide our clients with the very best defense based upon a strategic response that is grounded in a thorough understanding of the applicable law and able to adapt as circumstances change (as they often do) during the course of litigation.

    Our employment attorneys litigate cases throughout the U.S., either with assistance of local counsel, or with the assistance of our own attorneys who are licensed in the particular jurisdiction. In the past five years, we have handled employment lawsuits and unfair labor practice proceedings in 28 states.

    We are regularly involved in claims of:

    • Unlawful discrimination under federal and state law
    • Retaliatory discharge issues under federal and state law
    • Wrongful discharge
    • Interference with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other statutory rights
    • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) matters relating to complaints, investigations and fines
    • Wage and hour non-compliance
    • Breach or enforcement of non-compete agreements
    • Tortious interference with contracts
    • Defamation
    • Breach of fair representation
    • I-9 non-compliance
    • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) litigation
  • Traditional Labor

    We counsel clients on employee relations strategies aimed at fostering a positive work environment and avoiding union organization. We provide advice and training on best practices to achieve this goal, but also are experienced in respectfully and lawfully counteracting union activities throughout the country, including proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

    For clients whose employees are represented by unions, we have negotiated contracts, handled unfair labor practice charges, and arbitrated grievances across the U.S., including California and Alaska.

    Our services include:

    • Union avoidance training and informational campaigns
    • Collective bargaining agreement negotiations
    • Labor arbitrations
    • Contract negotiation, interpretation and administration
    • Grievance procedures
    • Defense of unfair labor practice changes
    • Strike guidance
    • Decertification campaigns
Davidson French
Member
Tim K. Garrett
Member
Robert W. Horton
Member
William N. Ozier
Member (retired)
Mary Leigh Pirtle
Associate
Kimberly S. Veirs
Associate
Courtney C. Williams
Attorney