Tennessee Labor Laws

March 19th 2024

This article covers:

What are Tennessee Time Management Laws?

In the US, there are federal laws in place to manage the time spent by employees in the workplace, safeguarding their rights and guaranteeing fair pay for their efforts. These laws act as directives for employers, keeping them in check, and minimizing any forms of abuse or exploitation.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which dates back to 1938, is a critical federal law for time management, setting hourly wage rates and overtime pay, and requiring employers to keep an accurate record of their employees’ working hours. Overtime is pegged at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate for workers who exceed 40 hours a week. However, certain job categories, including executives, professionals, and administrative employees, are exempt from overtime pay depending on their job description and salary.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another essential federal law that governs time management in the workplace, entitling eligible employees to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child or caring for a family member with a serious health condition. This act also requires employers to maintain employees’ health benefits during their leave and restore them to their previous or equivalent positions upon their return to work.

Employers who contravene federal time management laws face severe legal ramifications, including fines, back pay, and damages. If workers feel that their employer has violated federal time management laws, they can file complaints with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for investigation and legal action.

Overall, federal time management laws are instrumental in ensuring that workers are compensated fairly for their time and effort in the workplace, protecting them from abuse and exploitation by employers. The Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act are vital federal laws that govern time management and worker compensation, ensuring fair labor practices across various sectors, including non-profit, public, and private organizations.

Tennessee minimum wage $7.25
Tennessee overtime 1.5 times the regular wage for any time worked over 40 hours/week
($10.88 for minimum wage workers)
Tennessee breaks 30-minute meal or rest break after every 6 consecutive hours of work

What are the Hiring, Working & Termination Laws in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals in hiring or employment on the basis of their:

  • race
  • creed
  • color
  • religion
  • sex
  • age (40 or older)
  • national origin
  • physical, mental, or visual disability,unless such disability prevents or impairs job performance (blind individuals with guide dogs are also protected)

However, it’s not considered discriminatory to give preferences in hiring to certain individuals, such as discharged veterans (honorably discharged), a veteran’s spouse with a service-connected disability, or an unremarried widow or widower of a veteran or member of the armed forces who died of a service-connected disability or in the line of duty. It’s important to note that these provisions only apply to private employment.

In Tennessee, there is a law known as the “right-to-work” law that was adopted in 1947. This law ensures that no employee can be compelled to join or not join a union as a condition of their employment. Under this law, it is illegal for an employer or organization to refuse to hire someone based on their membership, resignation or refusal to join a labor union or employee organization, or to exclude them from employment for these reasons. It is also unlawful to deny employment based on payment or non-payment of union dues or to prohibit someone from withdrawing from a union or employee organization. Violators of this law can face prosecution for a Class A misdemeanor.

In the United States, every state except for Montana recognizes the legal concept of at-will employment. This means that an employer is permitted to terminate the contract of an employee at any time, without providing a specific reason for doing so. Likewise, an employee can choose to quit their job at any time without consequence. However, it is important to note that an employer cannot legally fire someone based on their race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin or disability, which would be considered wrongful termination. In Tennessee, there are a few exceptions to the at-will doctrine that protect employees from being discharged for performing military duty, voting, joining or leaving voluntary associations, having wages garnished due to unpaid debts, filing a workers’ compensation claim, or serving on a jury.

When an employee leaves their job either by resigning or being terminated, their employer is required to pay them all the wages they earned no later than the next scheduled payday or within 21 days of their last day of work, whichever is later.

What Are the Key Labor Laws in Tennessee?

Now, we will discuss some key labor laws in Tennessee that may not be related to the categories we have previously explored. Some of these regulations include:

  • COBRA Law – When employees leave their job, they and their dependents can choose to keep their health insurance coverage through COBRA. To qualify, they must have been part of the state’s group health, dental, or vision program. COBRA can provide health insurance for up to 36 months, but it’s important to note that coverage doesn’t start until a written notice is provided within 60 days of employment ending.
  • OSHA Law – Tennessee has a program called TOSHA that’s responsible for ensuring safe and healthy conditions in the workplace. Like its federal counterpart, TOSHA establishes safety and health standards and enforces them. It also offers various services such as training, education, and consultations to prevent work-related deaths or injuries. TOSHA applies to most private-sector workplaces, as well as state and local governments, but not federal government employers (such as USPS).
  • Whistleblower Laws – Whistleblower laws are designed to protect and motivate individuals who witness the breaking of laws or rules to come forward and report the incident to the relevant authorities, without fear of retribution. Tennessee is particular keen to encourage all employees, regardless of whether they work in the private or public sector, to speak out about any illegal activity that they witness, relating to the Tennessee criminal or civil code or US law in general. Because of this encouragement to speak out, no employee can legally be fired as a consequence of either refusing to partake in illicit activity or for simply reporting it. Additionally, if an employee files a complaint or testifies about any violation of workplace health and safety, under TOSHA (the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Act), their employer is forbidden from taking any detrimental action against them. If an employee is the victim of retaliatory discharge, or indeed any other type of harm, then they have the power to sue their employer for causing them harm, and they are also entitled to claim attorney fees and other expenses.
  • Recordkeeping Laws – Because some state recordkeeping laws may not be sufficient, federal provisions take precedence. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates that employers keep certain records for non-exempt employees for a minimum of three years. This includes personal information such as name, address, birth date (if under 19), and gender, as well as details about their occupation and hours worked. Employers must also keep track of when the employee’s workweek begins, how they are paid (hourly or weekly, for example), their pay rate, any overtime earnings, and any deductions or additions to their pay. Finally, employers must document how much was paid each pay period and when, as well as the corresponding pay period date. If you are an employer in Tennessee and you hire minors, you must keep a separate record for each of them. This record should include an employment application, some kind of document that proves the minor’s age (like a birth certificate, ID or passport), a record of the minor’s daily working hours, and any exemption records. Additionally, it’s important to post a notice of child labor laws in an obvious location on the premises where minors work.

Tennessee Payment Laws

To start off, let’s take a look at the laws that govern how much employees must be paid. We’ll delve into the details of minimum wage standards, including any exceptions that may apply.

What is the Minimum Payment in Tennessee?

Currently, Tennessee does not have any state laws setting a minimum wage for workers. Consequently, employers must abide by the guidelines set forth by the federal government and pay their employees the ongoing minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour.

What are the Exceptions for Minimum Payment in Tennessee?

Certain employees are considered exempt, including:

  • executive, professional, and administrative employees
  • computer employees
  • highly compensated employees
  • farm workers
  • employees in fishing industries
  • seasonal/recreational workers

These exempt employees are typically paid on a salaried basis and don’t qualify for minimum wage or overtime.

In Tennessee, the definition of a “tipped employee” is unclear in labor laws. Therefore, those who receive tips must be paid the federal minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. However, their total earnings for each hour worked must be at least $7.25 per hour. If this is not met, the employer is responsible for covering the difference.

Companies must pay workers who have impairments caused by age or physical or mental disabilities at least the federal minimum wage. This is to ensure that all employees receive fair compensation for their work, regardless of their circumstances.

In addition, individuals who are under 20 years of age can be paid a “training wage” of $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days of their employment. After this period, employers must ensure that these individuals are being paid at least the federal minimum wage. For students who are working full-time in certain industries such as retail, agriculture, colleges, or universities, they may be paid up to 85% of the federal minimum wage. This is to provide these students with valuable work experience while allowing them to earn a fair wage. Finally, high school students who are at least 16 years old and attend vocational schools are entitled to 75% of the federal minimum wage. This ensures that these students can gain valuable vocational training while still receiving fair compensation for their work.  

What is the Payment Due Date in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, it is required that employers pay their employees at least once a month. If employers choose to pay their employees in multiple periods per month, they must follow certain guidelines. Compensation earned and unpaid before the first day of a month must be paid out by the twentieth day of the following month, and compensation earned and unpaid before the sixteenth day of a month must be paid out by the fifth day of the following month. These regulations only apply to private employment.

What are Tennessee Overtime Laws?

In the USA, if an employee works more than 40 hours a week and isn’t exempt, they should receive overtime pay as per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This also applies to non-exempt employees in Tennessee. So, if you’re a non-exempt employee in Tennessee, you are eligible to receive 1.5 times your regular pay rate for every hour worked over 40 hours a week.

What are Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Tennessee?

It’s worth noting that not all employees are eligible for overtime pay. Those who fall under the exempt category are typically salaried employees who receive a fixed amount of pay – this means they’re not entitled to extra time pay. In order for an employee to be considered overtime-exempt, they need to earn at least $684 per week. Examples of exempt employees include:

  • executive, administrative, and professional individuals
  • computer employees who make $684 a week or $27.63 per hour
  • outside sales employees
  • agricultural or horticultural employees
  • commissioned sales employees in retail or service establishments
  • motor carrier employees are also considered exempt from overtime pay if they provide services in transportation on highways in interstate or foreign commerce

Employees who are on a fixed salary typically don’t get overtime pay, but there is an exception to this rule. The Fluctuating Workweek Method (FWW) allows fixed salary employees to receive overtime pay of one-half times their regular hourly rate. However, to be eligible for FWW, the employee must have a fluctuating workweek, meaning they work varying hours between weeks, and earn at least $7.25 per hour.

Learn more in detail about Tennessee Salaried Employees Laws and Tennessee Overtime Laws.

What are Tennessee Time Off/Break Laws?

In Tennessee, workers can take a 30-minute meal or rest break after six hours of continuous work, without pay. However, the state law defines different requirements for certain employees in terms of breaks, such as those who have regular rest opportunities or job functions that require more breaks than usual, like food or beverage businesses and security guards. Although it’s not mandatory for these businesses to offer breaks, it’s still recommended that employers provide rest periods to their staff to ensure maximum efficiency in the workplace.

What are Tennessee Breastfeeding Laws?

According to regulations, if a mother chooses to breastfeed their child, employers must provide them with reasonable time to feed the baby. However, it’s worth noting that this time will be unpaid. Additionally, mothers are not entitled to a separate break specifically for providing milk, but must make use of their already provided rest or meal breaks. On top of this, it’s important that employers provide a private room (that can’t be a bathroom) or other suitable location for feeding the baby, which is conveniently located near the workplace.

What are Tennessee Leave Laws?

Tennessee provides two types of leaves – required and non-required leaves.

What is Tennessee Required Leave?

In Tennessee, (public) employers are legally obligated to provide their employees with certain leave benefits. Here are the specific benefits that must be assigned by law:

  • Annual Leave – Employees in Tennessee who work at least 1,600 hours in a year are entitled to paid leave based on their accrued annual leave. The amount of annual leave an employee can earn per month depends on their years of service, with a maximum of 42 days per year for those with over 20 years of service. Full-time employees who have been employed for more than 6 months and part-time or seasonal employees who meet the hour requirement are eligible for annual leave. Employees can use their accrued annual leave for any reason they choose.
  • Sick Leave – Our full-time employees have the opportunity to accumulate one sick leave day every month, as long as they have worked a minimum of 37.5 hours weekly or 7.5 hours daily. Those who qualify to accrue sick leave can utilize it in several different circumstances, including their own personal illness, disability caused by an accident, exposure to an infectious disease, sickness due to pregnancy or childbirth, adoption, medical or dental appointments, and the medical care of a family member, spouse, or parent.
  • Maternity Leave – If you’ve been with your employer for over a year, you may be entitled to up to four months of leave, whether paid or not. This applies to situations such as adoption, pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to provide eligible employees with unpaid leave for certain medical or family-related reasons. This may include caring for a newborn child, adopting or fostering a child, caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or having a serious health condition themselves. To be eligible for FMLA, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous year. This applies to public agency employees, companies with 50 or more employees, and even public and private elementary or secondary school employees.
  • Holiday Leave – The relevant holidays can be seen in the table below (after Non-Required leave)
  • Jury Duty Leave – As a US citizen, one has a civic duty to serve as a juror in a criminal or civil trial. If summoned to jury duty in Tennessee, an employee is entitled to time off from work, but only if the service exceeds three hours. The employee will still receive compensation for the time they were absent, but their employer may deduct the fees or compensation from their payment. It’s important to note that employers with fewer than five employees are not required to compensate their employees for jury service.
  • Voting Leave –As per regulations, every eligible voter has the right to a suitable timeframe, with payment, up to 3 hours maximum, to cast their vote. However, if the employment shift of a voter commences 3 or more hours after the opening of the polling station or ends 3 or more hours before the closing of polling, they will not be entitled to a voting leave of absence.
  • Bereavement Leave – If an employee’s immediate family member has passed away, they may take a leave of absence. In Tennessee, employees are given 3 days of paid bereavement leave for this situation. However, to receive this leave, an employee must have already accrued sick leave days. Additionally, if eligible, the employee can use an extra 2 days of sick leave in case of a family death.
  • Educational Leave – As a full-time, regular employee, you have the opportunity to take a paid leave of absence for the purpose of improving your education or training in areas that directly benefit the agency. If you qualify, you can receive 75% of your regular salary during your time away for these educational pursuits.
  • Military Leave – If you’re a member of the Armed Forces or Tennessee National Guard, you could be eligible for paid military leave of up to 20 workdays annually to engage in a variety of activities including active duty, active and inactive duty for training, full-time National Guard duty, examination to assess your ability to perform any of the aforementioned duties, funeral honors duty, NDMS-related duties, and activation by the Governor. Plus, if you’re a member of the United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol, you may be able to take up to 15 workdays of paid leave to assist in disaster or emergency situations. Finally, veterans can receive up to 4 hours to participate in military funeral services.
  • Special Leave Without Pay – Employees have the option to request a special leave of absence lasting over a month in certain situations. These include if they are experiencing an extended illness and have used up all of their annual, sick, and compensatory leave. Additionally, employees can request this type of leave if there is a special work assignment or emergency given by the state or another governmental agency. If an employee has exhausted all of their annual, sick, and compensatory leave and still wishes to take a break, they can request a vacation. In cases where an employee’s services are not required due to a seasonal situation, they can ask for an enforced leave of absence. Finally, employees may request leave for Officer of Employee Associations, athletic competition, or Family and Medical Leave.
  • Compensatory Time – Employees who are exempt and hold non-executive positions, together with non-exempt workers who do not receive overtime payments in cash, can earn paid time off for every hour worked above 37.5 in a week. Meanwhile, compensatory time is computed according to the average rate over the previous three years of employment or the employee’s hourly rate. Note, however, that there is a cap on the accrual of compensatory time which is set at 480 hours. When granted, employees are free to use their compensatory leave for any personal reason.
  • Administrative Leave – Employees may be granted paid administrative leave to participate in state-administered assessments or job interviews with the State of Tennessee. Additionally, those who donate platelets through the Pheresis Program may also be eligible for administrative leave.

What is Tennessee Non-Required Leave?

When it comes to private employers, they are not obligated to provide the following leaves, although it is recommended they do:

  • Annual Leave
  • Sick Leave
  • Holiday Leave
  • Jury duty Leave
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Educational Leave
  • Military Leave
  • Special Leave Without Pay
  • Compensatory Time
  • Administrative Leave
  • Donor Leave

The following are the official federal holidays observed in US:

State Official Holidays Date
New Year’s Day 1 January
Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day Third Monday in January
Washington’s Birthday Third Monday in February
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Independence Day 4 July
Labor Day First Monday in September
Columbus Day Second Monday in October
Election Day Every other year
Veterans Day 11 November
Thanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November
Christmas Day 25 December

Tennessee Child Labor Laws

In Tennessee, workers who are younger than 18 are subject to laws regarding child labor.

What are the Laws on Working Hours for Minors in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, there are work hour restrictions for minors who are 16 and 17 years old. They cannot work during school hours and cannot work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday, unless they have parental or guardian permission. These minors are also limited to working until midnight, and not more than 3 nights. Additionally, minors aged 14 and 15 years old may not work during school hours and cannot work more than 3 hours a day and 18 hours a week when school is in session. During breaks, they are restricted to working no more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week when school is out. All minors in Tennessee must also have a 30-minute break without pay for every 6 hours of consecutive work.

What are the Banned Jobs for Minors in Tennessee?

If you want to hire workers under the age of 18 in Tennessee, you need to make sure that the workplace is safe and healthy for them. There are certain jobs that minors are not allowed to do in the state, such as:

  • working in coal mines
  • driving vehicles
  • working with explosives or sawmills
  • meatpacking
  • brick manufacturing industries
  • be involved in any kind of sexual or provocative photography or film

Learn more in detail about Tennessee Child Labor Laws.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.