Tennessee Labor Laws Guide
Ultimate Tennessee labor law guide: minimum wage, overtime, break, leave, hiring, termination, and miscellaneous labor laws.
|Tennessee Labor Laws FAQ|
|Tennessee minimum wage||$7.25|
|Tennessee overtime||1.5 times the regular wage for any time worked over 40 hours/week
($10.87 for minimum wage workers)
|Tennessee breaks||30-minute meal or rest break after every 6 consecutive hours of work|
Table of contents
Tennessee wage laws
In the state of Tennessee, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates wages concerning:
- The state minimum,
- Tipped employees, and
- Subminimum wages (except for subminimum wages regarding individuals with physical or mental disability, which are regulated by state laws).
|TENNESSEE MINIMUM WAGE|
|Regular minimum wage||Tipped minimum wage||Subminimum wage|
|$7.25||$2.13||$7.25 (with some exceptions)|
Tennessee minimum wage
No state law establishes the minimum wage for Tennessee workers.
Therefore, employers are subject to federal regulations and must pay the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Exceptions to the minimum wage in Tennessee
Not all workers are entitled to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Certain employees are referred to as exempt employees — meaning they are usually paid on a salaried basis and don’t qualify for minimum wage or overtime.
Employees that are exempt from the minimum wage in the state of Tennessee under the FLSA include the following:
- Executive, professional, and administrative employees who earn not less than $684 a week
- Computer employees who earn not less than $684 per week or $27.63 an hour
- Highly compensated employees who earn $107,432 per year or more
- Farm workers
- Employees in fishing industries
- Seasonal and recreational workers
Tipped minimum wage in Tennessee
Given the fact that the term “tipped employee” is not clearly defined in Tennessee labor laws, the minimum wage for employees who receive gratuities and tips is, again, the federal minimum of $2.13 per hour.
However, an employee’s total earnings per hour must equal at least the federal minimum of $7.25.
If not, an employer must make up the difference.
Tennessee subminimum wage
As of July 1, 2022, employees impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency must be paid no less than the federal minimum wage.
Meanwhile, employees under 20 years of age are entitled to $4.25 per hour for the first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment.
Such a wage is called the training wage. After 90 days of training, employees are entitled to at least the federal minimum.
Full-time students working in retail, agriculture, colleges, or universities may be paid not less than 85% of the minimum wage under federal law.
Finally, high school students at least 16 years old, who attend vocational schools, are entitled to 75% of the minimum wage.
Tennessee payment laws
Tennessee employers must pay their employees all wages earned at least once a month.
Employers who pay their employees once a month must make payments not later than the fifth day of the following month.
However, employers may pay their employees in two or more periods per month — but must comply with the following provisions:
- Compensation earned and unpaid before the first day of a month must be paid out to the employee not later than the twentieth day of the following month, and
- Compensation earned and unpaid before the sixteenth day of a month must be paid out to the employee not later than the fifth day of the following month.
Still, such payday regulations only apply to private employment.
Tennessee overtime laws
Unless exempt, every employee working more than 40 hours a week in the USA is entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The same applies to Tennessee non-exempt employees. Accordingly, non-exempt employees in Tennessee qualify for overtime pay at a rate of one and a half (1.5) times the regular rate for each hour worked over 40 hours per week.
Overtime exceptions and exemptions in Tennessee
Meanwhile, some employees don’t qualify for overtime pay.
Such employees are called exempt employees, and they usually receive a fixed amount of pay — i.e. a salary. The minimum salary requirement is $684 per week for an employee to have an overtime-exempt status.
Employees who are exempt from overtime pay under federal law include:
- Executive, administrative, and professional employees who receive a fixed salary of at least $684 per month (or $35,568 per year)
- Computer employees who earn not less than $684 a week or $27.63 per hour
- Highly compensated employees who earn $107,432 per year or more
- Outside sales employees
- Agricultural or horticultural employees
- Commissioned sales employees in retail or service establishments who receive more than half of their earning from commissions on goods or services
- Motor carrier employees (e.g. drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders, or mechanics providing services in transportation on highways in interstate or foreign commerce)
Fluctuating Workweek Method (FWW) in Tennessee
Even though employees who receive a fixed salary are not subject to overtime pay — there is an exemption to this rule.
Thanks to the Fluctuating Workweek Method (FWW), such employees are entitled to overtime pay of one-half (0.5) times the regular hourly rate.
Including the fixed salary requirement, the following are conditions that must be met for the FWW to apply:
- Employees must have a “fluctuating workweek” — sometimes they work more or less than 40 hours a week
- Employees must earn at least $7.25 per hour
Here is how the Fluctuating Workweek Method (FWW) looks in practice:
An employee’s weekly income is, for instance, $950.
In the preceding week, the employee worked 48 hours.
To be able to calculate overtime hours, calculate the hourly rate first.
Simply divide the weekly salary by the number of hours worked for that week.
$950 / 48 = $20 per hour
Next, multiply the hourly rate by 0.5 for every overtime hour during a week.
$20 per hour x 0.5 = $10 for each overtime hour worked
Total overtime compensation goes as follows:
$10 x 8 overtime hours = $80
Tennessee break laws
Tennessee employees are granted a 30-minute meal or rest break without pay after every 6 consecutive hours of work.
Still, Tennessee law makes a distinction between employees in terms of granting breaks.
That being said, businesses that by nature allow employees to take more breaks than usual (i.e., provide “ample opportunity to rest”) are not obliged to offer meal or rest breaks to their employees. Such businesses include food or beverage businesses, security guards, etc.
Nevertheless, employers are advised to offer breaks to their employees anyhow, to maintain productivity in an office environment.
Tennessee breastfeeding laws in the workplace
As for breastfeeding in the workplace, state employers must provide reasonable break time without pay to an employee to express milk. Still, a breastfeeding employee does not get a separate break to express milk in the workplace, but must use an already provided rest or meal break (such as a 30-minute meal break) to do that.
What’s more, a breastfeeding mother must be given a private, separate room (that cannot be a bathroom) or other location close to the workplace where the employee may express milk.
Tennessee leave requirements
There are certain leave benefits that Tennessee employers are obliged to secure for their employees.
But, by law, Tennessee employers are not obliged to provide some other leaves of absence.
That’s why, we’ve divided types of leave days into two categories:
- Required leave
- Non-required leave
Tennessee required leave
The following are leave benefits that Tennessee employers are required to assign to their employees by law:
- Annual leave (public employers)
- Sick leave (public employers)
- Maternity leave
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Holiday leave (public employers)
- Jury duty leave (public employers)
- Voting leave
- Bereavement leave (public employers)
- Educational leave (public employers)
- Military leave (public employers)
- Special leave without pay (public employers)
- Compensatory time (public employers)
- Administrative leave (public employers)
Annual leave (public employers)
Eligible employees may accrue and use annual leave for whatever reason they wish.
In Tennessee, employees scheduled to work 1,600 hours or more in a year are entitled to paid leave of absence based on such an employee’s accrued annual leave.
Eligible employees may earn annual leave based on years of service as follows:
|Years of service||Annual leave earned per month||Maximum allowable days per year|
|0 up to 5||1 day||30 days|
|5 up to 10||1 and ½ days||36 days|
|10 up to 20||1 and ¾ days||39 days|
|20 or more||2 days||42 days|
Who qualifies for annual leave?
Eligible employees include:
- Full-time employees who have been employed for more than 6 months
- Part-time or seasonal employees scheduled to work 1,600 hours or more in a year
Sick leave (public employers)
Full-time employees may accrue 1 sick leave day per month — provided that such an employee works at least 37.5 hours a week (or 7.5 hours a day).
Eligible employees may use sick leave in the following circumstances:
- Personal illness
- Disability due to accident
- Exposure to an infectious disease
- Pregnancy or birth-related sickness
- Medical and dental appointments
- Medical care, illness, or death of a spouse, child (biological, adopted, foster, step, legal ward), relative, or parent
Employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months may be granted up to 4 months of leave — paid or unpaid — in the following cases:
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, employers must grant eligible employees unpaid time off for specified medical or family reasons such as:
- Birth or care for a newborn child
- Adopting or taking in a foster child
- Caring for an immediate family member (child, spouse, or parent) due to a serious health condition
- The employee’s serious health condition
To qualify for FMLA, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months (1,250 hours) in the previous 12-month period.
Who is eligible for FMLA?
- Public agency employees
- Companies with 50 or more employees
- Public and private elementary or secondary school employees
Holiday leave (public employers)
The state of Tennessee recognizes the following holidays as paid days off:
- New Year’s Day (1st of January)
- New Year’s Eve (31st of December)
- Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January)
- Presidents' Day (third Monday in February)
- Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
- Independence Day (fourth day of July)
- Labor Day (first Monday in September)
- Veterans Day (eleventh day of November)
- Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November)*
- Christmas Day (25th of December)
- Christmas Eve (24th of December)
* Columbus Day shall be substituted for the Friday after Thanksgiving.
If a holiday falls on Saturday — the preceding Friday will be a day off.
If a holiday falls on Sunday — the following Monday will be a day off.
Yet, only state offices remain closed during said holidays.
Jury duty leave (public employers)
Jury duty is a civic obligation of each US citizen to serve as a juror on a criminal or civil trial.
In Tennessee, employees who receive a summons from a court are entitled to time off from work — but only if jury duty exceeds 3 hours.
What’s more, employees receive the usual compensation for the period of absence due to jury duty service. But, an employer is likewise allowed to deduct the fees or compensation that the employee receives for such service.
Finally, employers with less than 5 employees are not supposed to compensate the juror for the jury service.
Each person who has the right to vote must be granted “a reasonable period of time”, with pay, not exceeding 3 hours, for the purpose of voting.
Still, if an employee’s work shift begins 3 or more hours after the opening of the polls or ends 3 or more hours before the closing of the polls, then such employee is not eligible for a voting leave of absence.
For instance, if an employee’s work shift begins at 10 a.m., and the polls are open from 7 a.m.
— in such a case, the employee may not take paid time off to vote.
Bereavement leave (public employers)
Such leave is taken in case an immediate family member has passed away.
In Tennessee, employees are entitled to 3 paid days of bereavement leave in the event of the death of an employee’s immediate family member.
However, an employee must have accrued sick leave days to be able to earn a bereavement leave of absence.
Apart from getting 3 days of bereavement leave, an eligible employee may use additional 2 days of sick leave in the event of a death in a family.
Educational leave (public employers)
Any full-time, regular employee may receive a paid leave of absence for the purpose of gaining education or training related to the needs of the agency.
Eligible employees may receive 75% of their regular salary during the period of education or training.
Military leave (public employers)
Members of the Armed Forces and Tennessee National Guard may be granted a paid military leave of 20 workdays per year to engage in the performance of:
- Active duty
- Active and inactive duty for training
- Full-time National Guard duty
- Examination to determine a person’s ability to perform any of the said duties above
- Funeral honors duty
- National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) related duties
- Activation by the Governor
In addition, members of the United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol are also eligible for paid leave of absence of up to 15 workdays to aid in civil air patrol, emergency, or disaster situations.
Finally, veterans may be granted up to 4 hours to participate in a military funeral service.
Special leave without pay (public employers)
Employees may ask for a special leave of absence of more than 1 month in the following cases:
- Extended illness — in case all annual, sick, and compensatory leave is exhausted
- Special work assignment — in case of emergency or special work assignment given by the state or other governmental agency
- Vacation — when all accumulated annual, sick, and compensatory leave are exhausted
- Seasonal — in case of an enforced leave of absence when services from an employee are not required
- Leave of absence for Officer of Employee Associations
- Leave for athletic competition
- Family and Medical Leave
Compensatory time (public employers)
Exempt, non-executive level employees and non-exempt employees who don’t receive overtime in cash may accrue paid time off for hours worked over 37.5 per week.
Compensatory time is calculated based on the employee's average rate over the last 3 years of employment or the employee’s hourly rate.
The accrual is limited, though. Eligible employees may accrue up to 480 hours of compensatory time.
Employees may use compensatory leave for any reason.
Administrative leave (public employers)
Administrative leave is paid leave that can be granted to an employee to participate in a state-administered assessment or at a State of Tennessee job interview.
What’s more, administrative leave may be given to employees donating platelets through the Pheresis Program.
Tennessee non-required leave
The following are leaves of absence that Tennessee employers (mostly private) are not obliged to offer to their employees:
- Annual leave (private employers)
- Sick leave (private employers)
- Holiday leave (private employers)
- Jury duty leave (private employers)
- Bereavement leave (private employers)
- Educational leave (private employers)
- Military leave (private employers)
- Special leave without pay (private employers)
- Compensatory time (private employers)
- Administrative leave (private employers)
- Donor leave (Employees in Tennessee don’t receive any time off to give blood. In case of complications, they may use their sick, compensatory, or annual leave. Still, employees with special blood types are considered on duty when donating blood.)
Child labor laws in Tenneesse
In the state of Tennessee, employees under the age of 18 are subject to child labor laws.
In the following sections, we’ll be discussing child labor provisions regarding:
- Hour restrictions
- Break periods
- Prohibited occupations
Work time restrictions for Tennessee minors
Unlike in some other states, in Tennessee, there are work hour limitations when it comes to employing minors 16 and 17 years of age. There are also time restrictions for minors aged 14 and 15.
Time restrictions for minors aged 16 and 17:
- May not work when they are supposed to be attending classes
- May not work between 10 p.m and 6 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday*
* Unless they have parental or guardian permission, and in that case, minors may work until midnight but not more than 3 nights.
Time restrictions for minors aged 14 and 15
- May not work when they are supposed to be attending classes
- May not work more than 3 hours a day and 18 hours a week when school is in session
- May not work more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week when school is not in session
Breaks for Tennessee minors
All employees under 18 years of age must have a 30-minute break without pay for every 6 hours of consecutive work.
Prohibited occupations for Tennessee minors
Tennessee employers who wish to employ minors under 18 years of age must ensure a safe and healthy working environment free of any physical, moral, or emotional hazard.
Prohibited occupations for minors under the age of 18 in Tennessee:
- Coal mine occupation
- Occupations that involve motor vehicle driving
- Manufacturing or storing explosives or explosive components
- Logging and sawmill operation
- Slaughtering, meat packing, processing, or rendering
- Brick, tile, and similar product manufacturing
- Youth peddling
- Posing or modeling while engaged in sexual conduct for films, photographs, negatives, slides, or motion picture
Recordkeeping requirements for Tennessee minors
Under Tennessee law, employers that hire minors must keep a separate record for each minor that must include:
- Employment application
- Copy of minor’s birth certificate, driver’s license, ID, or passport to serve as evidence of age
- Daily time record
- Any record that qualifies a minor for exemption
Moreover, such employers must post a printed notice of the child labor provisions in a conspicuous place on the premises where minors are employed.
Tennessee hiring laws
Under Tennessee law, all individuals are protected from employment discrimination and must be given equal employment oppurtunities.
Therefore, employers must not discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of their:
- National origin
- Physical, mental, or visual disability**
*Limited to employees who are at least 40 years old.
**Unless such disability prevents or impairs the performance of work. Blind persons with guide dogs are also protected under this act.
Yet, it is not considered discriminatory practice when giving preferences in hiring to:
- A discharged veteran (provided that they are honorably discharged)
- A veteran’s spouse with a service-connected disability
- An unremarried widow or widower of a veteran or a member of the United States armed forces who died of a service-connected disability or in the line of duty
The said provisions with regards to giving veteran’s preference only apply to private employment.
Right-to-work law in Tennessee
Under a right-to-work law, no employee can be required or forced to join or not join a labor union as a condition of employment.
Tennessee adopted such a law in 1947.
The right-to-work law in Tennessee makes it unlawful for an employer or organization to:
- Refuse to hire a person due to their membership in, resignation from, or refusal to join a labor union or employee organization,
- Enter into a contract or agreement — whether written or oral — providing for exclusion from employment of a person due to their membership in, resignation from, or refusal to join a labor union or employee organization,
- Deny employment based on payment or failure to pay labor union or employee organization dues, fees, assessments, or other charges, and
- Prohibit a person from withdrawing from a labor union or employee organization (except in cities, towns, municipalities, or counties that have a metropolitan form of government).
If an employer or organization of any kind violates any of the said provisions, they will be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor.
Tennessee termination laws
In the US, all states (except Montana) recognize the at-will doctrine.
At-will means that an employer is legally allowed to end an employment contract with an employee at any time and for any reason or no reason at all.
An employee may likewise quit their job at any time and for any reason.
However, no employer is allowed to terminate an employee due to their race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, or disability.
Such a termination is called wrongful termination.
Still, under Tennessee law, there are certain exceptions to the at-will doctrine.
Employees in Tennessee cannot be discharged for:
- Performing military duty
- Voting in elections
- Joining or leaving associations voluntarily (in line with freedom of association)
- Wage garnishment (when an employee has unpaid debts, a third party may garnish, i.e., seize property or wages to settle debts)
- Filing workers’ compensation claim (when an employee suffers an injury or illness in the workplace)
- Performing jury duty
Tennessee final paycheck
Employees who either voluntarily resign from a job or are discharged by the employer must be paid all wages earned no later than the next regularly scheduled payday or 21 days after the end of employment — whichever is later.
Health insurance continuation in Tennessee
Upon termination of employment, employees and their dependents may elect to continue their health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) law.
Eligible employees are those who are already participating in the state’s group health, dental, or vision program.
Under COBRA, employees may extend their health insurance for up to 36 months.
Employees must be aware of the fact that COBRA coverage doesn’t become effective until the employee or dependent makes a written notice within 60 days of the date of employment termination.
Occupational safety in Tennessee
With regards to safe and healthful conditions in the workplace, Tennessee has a state-plan regulatory program called Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA).
Just like the federal OSHA, the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) sets and enforces standards regarding workers’ safety and health. Furthermore, it provides training, education, and consultations to reduce work-related injuries or fatalities.
Who is covered by TOSHA?
TOSHA applies to private-sector workplaces with several exceptions, as well as state and local government employers and employees (except for federal government employers including United States Postal Service — USPS).
Miscellaneous Tennessee labor laws
In this section of the guide, we’ll cover some of the miscellaneous labor laws concerning Tennessee — including:
- Whistleblower laws
- Recordkeeping laws
Tennessee whistleblower laws
Whistleblower laws protect and encourage individuals to report a violation of a law or rule to the proper authorities without being retaliated against.
In Tennessee, any employee — whether private or public — is encouraged to speak out and report illegal activity regarding the criminal or civil code of Tennessee or the US.
Therefore, no employee can be discharged for refusing to participate in or speaking out about illegal activity.
Moreover, under TOSHA, an employer cannot take any adverse action against an employee who files a complaint or testifies concerning a violation of occupational safety and health in the workplace.
Any employee who has suffered retaliatory discharge or any other damages will have the right to claim against an employer for causing harm and even recover any attorney fees and costs.
Tennessee recordkeeping laws
In light of state recordkeeping laws deficiency, federal provisions apply instead.
Having that in mind, under FLSA, all employers must keep the following records of each non-exempt employee for at least 3 years:
- Name, address, birth day (if younger than 19), and sex
- Hours worked each day and week
- Exact time and day of the week when employee’s workweek begins
- Basis on which the employee’s wages are paid (e.g., $12 per hour or $400 per week)
- Hourly pay rate
- Total overtime earnings
- Additions to or deductions from the employee’s wages
- Total wages paid each pay period
- Date of payment and the pay period
Even though employers may use any timekeeping method under FLSA, to better manage employee time tracking and get rid of manual or paper timesheets, employers may consider using a time tracker and timesheet app.
We hope this Tennessee labor law guide has been helpful. We advise you to make sure you’ve paid attention to the links we’ve provided, as most of them will lead you to the official government websites and other relevant information.
Please note that this guide was written in Q3 2022, so any changes in the labor laws that were included later than that may not be included in this Tennessee labor laws guide.
We strongly advise you to consult with the appropriate institutions and/or certified representatives before acting on any legal matters.
Clockify is not responsible for any losses or risks incurred, should this guide be used without further guidance from legal or tax advisors.
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