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Employment Laws in Tennessee

Filed under Hiring Workers. Fact checked on January 30, 2013.

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Employers in Tennessee must conform to these state rules relating to the employment relationship.

Employee does not include a person employed by his or her parent, spouse, child or in the domestic service of another.

Employer includes employers of eight or more persons within Tennessee and agents of employers.

Prohibited Employment Discrimination

Employers may not discriminate in their hiring or employment practices against a job applicant or employee because of:

  • race
  • creed
  • color
  • religion
  • sex
  • disability
  • age (over 40 years of age)
  • national origin

Tobacco use. Employers may not discharge an employee solely because the individual uses tobacco or other legal agricultural products off the employer's premises during nonworking hours.

Religious organizations. Discrimination with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion is not unlawful by a religious corporation, association, or educational institution, or society to perform work connected with the carrying on of its religious activities.

Medical information. It is unlawful for any employer or his agent or contractor, to market or sell medical information that directly identifies an employee, unless the patient has authorized the release in written, electronic or other form that indicates the patient's consent.

This includes records for medical services provided or paid for by the employer for purposes unrelated to the provision of health care to the employee or family members receiving health insurance, payment for health care to the employee or family members receiving health insurance, or administration of any health plan or program offered by the plan.

Medical information includes lists of employees or family members receiving health insurance, but does not include information that does not identify the patient.

Whistle-blower protection. Employers are prohibited from discharging or terminating an employee solely for refusing to participate in or refusing to remain silent about illegal activities.

English-only rule. Employers are authorized to institute a policy in the workplace requiring that all employees speak only in English at certain times when the employer has a legitimate business necessity for such a policy. Employers must provide notice to employees of the policy and of the consequences of violating the policy.

Volunteer rescue squads. Employers are prohibited from terminating an employee because the employee, when acting as a volunteer rescue squad worker, is absent or late for work in order to respond to an emergency prior to the time the employee is to report to the employee's place of employment. Employers are able to charge the lost time against the employee's regular pay.

Employees are to make a reasonable effort to notify the employer that he or she may be late, and the employer has the right to require that the employee provide written verification from the rescue squad supervisor or acting supervisor that the employee responded to an emergency that lists the date and time of the emergency.

Military leave. Members of the Tennessee army and air national guard on active state duty or the Tennessee state guard and civil air patrol are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence.

Local nondiscrimination laws. Local governments are prohibited from passing nondiscrimination ordinances that exceed the protections provided by state laws.

Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers must make, keep, preserve records relevant to the determination of whether discriminatory practices have been or are being committed and make reports as prescribed by the Commission. Any personnel or employment record made or kept by an employer must be preserved for six months from the time they are made or from the date of termination.

Records to be retained include application forms, records having to do with hiring, promotion, demotion, transfer, layoff or termination, rates of pay and selection for training or apprenticeship.

Posting Requirements

As relief or penalty for fair employment practices violations, an employer may be directed to post in conspicuous places and advertising materials notices setting forth requirements for compliance with the Fair Employment Practices Law or other relevant information the Commission determines necessary.

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