Tennessee Break Laws

March 12th 2024

Tennessee break laws encompass regulations governing meal breaks, rest breaks, and other periods of rest for employees within the state. Employers and employees should familiarize themselves with both federal and any applicable state-specific regulations to ensure compliance with break laws and other labor standards in Tennessee.

This article provides the key provisions of Tennessee break laws.

This article covers:

Rest Breaks in Tennessee

Employers in Tennessee are not required to provide short breaks to employees. However, if the employer offers rest breaks of less than 20 minutes, the breaks must be compensated.

Meal Breaks in Tennessee

According to Tennessee Code 50-2-103, employers must provide employees scheduled to work for six consecutive hours with a 30-minute unpaid meal break. Failure to provide this meal or rest period is a violation of state law.

Breastfeeding Breaks in Tennessee

According to Tennessee Code 50-1-305, employers are mandated to provide breastfeeding employees with a break time and place. An employer should provide reasonable unpaid break time that runs concurrently with other break times, allowing employees to have ample time to express breast milk and travel to and from the lactation room.

Furthermore, employers must provide a lactation room or other location (a space other than a toilet stall) in close proximity to the work area, where the employee can express breast milk in private. Employers may be exempted from this clause if providing a lactation room would cause undue hardships for the business. Employers must be able to show that they made reasonable efforts to comply.

Break Law Exceptions in Tennessee

Certain employees in Tennessee are not entitled to a break as per the law. This exemption is applicable to employees who work in businesses that provide ample opportunities for their employees to take a meal break, such as in a restaurant during slow periods. This allows employers in the food and beverage industry to not grant lunch breaks to their employees, ensuring that customer service is maintained.

However, this break exception allows tipped employees to waive their right to a meal break voluntarily, with the employee being able to choose whether or not they take advantage of their right to a meal break.

Break Obligations for Minor Employees in Tennessee

Under Tennessee Code 50-5-115, minor employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid break or meal period if they need to work for six consecutive hours. This break obligation should not be scheduled during or before the first hour of the scheduled work.

Rest Day Requirements in Tennessee

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is a federal law, there are no requirements for rest days or days off for adult employees (18 years and older). However, there are regulations regarding overtime pay for certain employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

It is important to note that some industries or collective bargaining agreements may have specific provisions regarding rest days or days off. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult Tennessee labor laws and any applicable collective bargaining agreements for specific requirements that may apply to your situation.

Penalties for Employers in Tennessee Denying Breaks

Employers denying breaks may be punished with a fine no less than $100, and up to $500. Every employer willfully violating an employee’s break entitlement is subject to a civil penalty of between $500 and $1,000.

If the commissioner, or the commissioner’s designated representative, determines that the violation was unintentional, a warning is issued instead of a penalty for the first offense. On the second or subsequent violations, the civil penalty is applicable and may be assessed at the discretion of the commissioner or the commissioner’s designated representative. They can then decide to proceed either civilly or criminally for the violation, although the employer cannot be charged both civilly and criminally for the same violation.

 Learn more about Tennessee Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide, we have tried to make it accurate, but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you to seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred from the use of this guide.