It’s important to stay up to date on all of the employment laws in your state so that you can maintain compliance in your business. We did some of the hard work for you and put some of the most important Tennessee statutes in one place so you can either learn them for the first time or give yourself a refresher. 

However, remember that our summary is not qualified legal advice, laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. 

It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. Consult with a qualified lawyer and/or your local government agencies if you have questions or concerns. 

Here are a few Tennessee labor laws every small business owner should know.

Resources

First, here are a few helpful links and resources for you to bookmark and refer back to:

Leave

  • Sick Days: Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid sick leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one.
  • Medical Leave: Employers may be required to provide an employee unpaid leave in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act or other federal laws.
  • Vacation Leave: Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one.
    • Employers may establish a policy that denies payment for accrued vacation time upon separation from employment.
    • Employers may also cap the amount of vacation time that can be accrued, and can implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy that requires employees to use their leave by a certain date.
  • Jury Duty: Employers with 5 or more employees are required to pay permanent employees for time spent on jury duty and are not allowed to punish the employee in any way. 
    • If an employee is scheduled for a night shift or during the hours before the time court is normally held, the employee must be excused from work for the shift immediately preceding the employee’s first day of jury duty. 
  • Holiday Leave: Private employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid time off for holidays. 
  • Voting Leave:  Employers must give eligible employees (those who request the time off by 12 p.m. on the day prior to the vote and who do not have 3 hours of time to vote before or after their shift) up to 3 hours of paid time off to vote. 
  • Bereavement Leave: Employers are not required to provide bereavement leave.
  • Volunteer Firefighters: Employers may not discharge an employee who is a volunteer firefighter because they take leave to respond to an emergency. The employee must continue to accrue vacation time, sick leave, or earned overtime accumulation during the leave.
    • If the employee assisted in firefighting for more than four hours, the employee is entitled to take the next scheduled workday within 12 hours of the response as a paid vacation day or sick day or, if they don’t have an available vacation or sick day, as a day off without pay.
    • The employer may require that the employee make a reasonable effort to provide notice of the need for leave if time permits. Afterward, the employer may require documentation confirming they were providing emergency services.
  • Witness Leave: Employers in Tennessee are not required to provide employees with leave to appear as a witness.

Final Paycheck

Employers must pay employees who are terminated or who have quit all final wages no later than the next regular payday, or 21 days after the date of discharge, whichever comes last. 

Minimum Wage

Tennessee does not have an established state minimum wage rate, so the federal rate of $7.25 applies. 

Pay Practices

  • Employers in Tennessee must pay their employees at least monthly on regular paydays the employer chooses in advance.
  • Employers must post a notice regarding paydays in at least two prominent locations where each employee can see it when going to work.
  • If an employer pays employees twice per month, wages earned before the 16th day of the month must be paid by the 5th day of the following month and wages earned after the 16th day of the month must be paid by the 20th day of the following month.

Tipped Wages

There is no state tipped minimum wage rate either, so the federal rate of $2.13 applies. 

Child Labor

  • Minors 14 and 15 years of age are subject to the following restrictions:
    • When school is in session:
      • A maximum of 3 hours a day on school days
      • A maximum of 8 hours a day on non-school days
      • A maximum of 18 hours a week during school weeks
      • Between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
      • No working during school hours 
    • When school is not in session
      • A maximum of 8 hours a day 
      • No more than 40 hours a week 
      • Between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. from June 1 to Labor Day
  • While minors 16 and 17 years of age do not have as many time restrictions as younger minors, they may not work later than 10 p.m. if they have school the next day.

Drug and Alcohol Testing  

  • Employers may test employees for drugs or alcohol. If their drug testing program meets specific requirements, they may be eligible for a discount under their workers’ compensation insurance policy.
  • Employers of drivers that transport eight or more passengers and employers in childcare are required to test their employees.

Meal and Rest Breaks, Overtime

  • The federal overtime rule stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year.
    • Federal law requires employers to pay non-exempt employees an overtime rate of 1 ½  their regular rate for all hours worked in a workweek in excess of 40. 
  • Employers with more than 5 employees must provide a 30-minute meal break to employees scheduled to work more than 6 hours, unless the nature of the workplace environment provides ample opportunity to rest. 
  • Lactating employees must be provided with a private place that is close to their work area to express milk, and reasonable break time to do so.

Required Posters

The State of Tennessee requires that employers post the following notices in a prominent location:

  • TOSHA Safety and Health
  • TN Unemployment Insurance
  • Wage Regulation/Child Labor
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Discrimination in Employment

Employment Discrimination

  • Federal law prohibits discrimination in employment or terms and conditions of employment based on the following:
    • Race
    • Color
    • Age
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation
    • Gender
    • Gender identity
    • Religion
    • National origin
    • Pregnancy
    • Genetic information, including family medical history
    • Physical or mental disability
    • Child or spousal support withholding
    • Military or veteran status
    • Citizenship and/or immigration status
  • Additionally, the state of Tennessee prohibits employers with eight or more employees from discriminating based on the following:
    • Use of an agricultural product not regulated by the alcoholic beverage commission that is not otherwise prohibited by law, off company premises and not during working hours
  • Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.       

Termination

Tennessee is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action. 

Whistleblower Protection

Employers may not discharge an employee for reporting or refusing to participate in a violation of state law.

Layoffs and Reduction in Force

Employers must provide 60 days’ written notice to affected employees (or their union officials if applicable), the chief elected official of local government, and Dislocated Worker Unit of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development before closing or relocating their business or conducting a mass layoff. The notice requirement is triggered when 50 or more workers are affected for at least three months. The notice must contain the following information:

  • The company’s name and address
  • The name and address of a contact person
  • The date of the closing or mass layoff
  • Whether the closing or layoff is permanent or temporary
  • The job titles of the positions to be eliminated
  • The number of affected workers
  • Whether bumping rights exist
  • The name of unions representing affected workers, if applicable
  • The name and address of the chief elected officer of each union representing affected workers, if applicable
  • Whether the entire plant will close

COBRA

  • COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.”
  • Tennessee’s mini-COBRA allows employees to continue their coverage for up to three additional months or for up to nine months after a pregnancy. Each individual certification of coverage must contain a notice of the right to continue coverage. We recommend that employers inform their insurer of an employee’s triggering event as soon as it occurs.

Shift Scheduling

There are currently no laws regarding shift scheduling in Tennessee. 

Miscellaneous Laws

Social Media

  • Employers may not:
    • Request or require an employee or an applicant to disclose a password that allows access to the employee’s or applicant’s personal Internet account.
    • Compel an employee or an applicant to add the employer or an employment agency to the employee’s or applicant’s list of contacts associated with a personal Internet account.
    • Compel an employee or an applicant to access a personal Internet account in the presence of the employer in a manner that enables the employer to observe the contents of the employee’s or applicant’s personal Internet account.
    •  Take adverse action, fail to hire, or otherwise penalize an employee or applicant because of a failure to disclose information.
  • There is an exception to this law if the employer is conducting an investigation or requiring an employee to cooperate in an investigation if:
    • There is specific information on the employee’s personal Internet account regarding compliance with applicable laws, regulatory requirements, or prohibitions against work-related employee misconduct
    • The employer has specific information about an unauthorized transfer of the employer’s proprietary information, confidential information, or financial data to an employee’s personal Internet account

 

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