Doing Business in Tennessee

Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett authored an article for Workforce magazine outlining how the workplace can be considered the unintended battleground for cultural wars. In the article, Tim identifies the causes of this reality and the tension it creates; highlights certain “false” solutions; and provides a more effective, practical solution for working toward a coherent, team-oriented, positive work environment. Continue Reading Arming for the Workplace Cultural Dynamics

Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Bill Ozier authored an article for the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry outlining the details of a new bill passed by the Tennessee Legislature in 2015 that creates a new protected status for employees that have a valid handgun carry permit. As explained in the article, “[t]he statute prohibits an employer from discharging or taking any adverse action against an employee solely for transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in an employer parking area, provided that the employee complies with the provisions of the ‘Guns in Trunks’ legislation passed in 2013.” In the article, Bill further explains how employers will be effected by this new legislation.

The full article, “Tennessee Legislature Enacts New Protection for Employees with Valid Handgun Carry Permits,” was published in the Summer 2015 issue of the Business Insider, a publication of the Tennessee  Chamber of Commerce & Industry and is available online.

Effective July 1, 2014, the following changes in Tennessee employment laws will take effect:

  • No individual liability of supervisors or managers in discrimination claims; only the “employer” can be sued for discrimination;
  • Caps on non-monetary damages (pain, suffering, humiliation, embarrassment) in discrimination claims; caps do not limit back-pay or front-pay;
  • Preemption of common law “whistleblower” claims; such retaliation claims can be brought only under the Tennessee Public Protection Act, with its “sole cause” standard;
  • Clarifications that the Tennessee Disability Act, like the Tennessee Human Rights Act, applies to employer with eight or more employees and that a person cannot be pursuing two cases at the same time (one in state court and one in federal court) based on the same set of facts. Continue Reading Tennessee Legislature Makes Significant Changes in State Employment Laws

With a growing number of employers using direct deposit to pay their employees instead of paper checks (or even rarer, actual cash!), employers need to be aware of restrictions on the use of debit cards for such payments. Since some employees may not have checking accounts, employers may provide them with a “debit card” – usually issued by a local banking institution – to which the employee’s pay is credited on each payroll date. The employee can then use the card like “cash” for any purchases. Continue Reading Tips on Using Payroll Debit Cards

A new Tennessee law, effective July 1, 2013, allows Tennessee employees who hold valid permits to carry concealed weapons, to bring their weapons onto their employer’s parking lot, under certain conditions.  In light of this new law, Tennessee employers who wish to limit handguns and other weapons on their premises may do the following:

  1. Continue to post signs that weapons are not permitted on their property.  The law allows employers to continue to prohibit weapons in the employer’s building, and it allows employers to continue to prohibit weapons even in parking lots, if the employee or visitor does not have a valid carry permit.
  2. Adopt a policy requiring any employee who brings a gun to work in accordance with the statute:
    • To park in a specific designated parking area of the employer’s premises,
    • To notify the company that the employee has a weapon in the vehicle, and
    • To provide proof to the employer that the employee holds a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Continue Reading Tennessee’s New “Guns in Trunks” Law

A Cautionary Reminder for Employers

A Texas Federal Court recently ruled that terminating an employee because she wanted to pump breast milk at work is not sex discrimination.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued on behalf of an individual employee who had mentioned her need to pump breast milk at work and soon thereafter was fired for job abandonment.  The employer claimed that the employee had not kept the employer informed during her leave or about her desire to return to work.  The employer explained that its decision to terminate the employee for job abandonment already had been made before the employee’s request.

The Washington Post reported on this ruling last week. Continue Reading Texas Court Rules Against EEOC – “Lactation Discrimination” Is Not Unlawful Sex Discrimination But …

Jury dutyMost Tennessee employers are required to pay employees their “usual compensation” for jury duty.  But, what time is included in the phrase “jury duty” for the purpose of paying employees who serve?

That question was the subject of a recent Tennessee Attorney General opinion.  The Attorney General clarified that, under Tennessee law, jury duty includes the travel time to and from court to report for jury service, even if the employee’s “usual compensation” at his/her job does not include travel time.

Based on Tennessee law, a juror is entitled to an excused absence from work and, for certain employers (unless have less than five employees) to payment in the amount of their “usual compensation” for the time attributed to jury service (unless the employee has been employed for less than six months).  Attorney General Robert Cooper noted that the compensation provision of the law expressly states that the employer is not required to pay more than the employee’s time “spent serving and traveling to and from jury duty.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 22-4-106(b) (emphasis added).  Thus, in an opinion that is not surprising given this statutory language, commuting time to and from court is included in an employee’s jury duty pay.

Tennessee has a maternity/paternity leave law which permits both male and female full-time employees with 12 consecutive months of service to have four months of unpaid leave for adoption, pregnancy, childbirth and nursing a new infant.  In order for an employee to be covered, the employer must have 100 or more employees on the job site or location at which the employee requesting leave is employed.

The employee must give three months’ advance notice except for medical emergency.  With regard to adoption, the four-month leave period begins on the date that the employee receives custody of the child.  Typically, the leave is job-protected.  However, there is an exception if the employee is so “unique” that the employer, after reasonable efforts, cannot fill the position temporarily. Continue Reading What Do Tennessee’s Family And/Or Medical Leave Laws Require?

The Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA) applies to employers with eight or more employees within the state and prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.  The interpretation and enforcement of the THRA follows closely that of Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC) investigates charges of discrimination brought under the THRA, although most charges of this nature are filed jointly with the EEOC and THRC.  Under a work-sharing agreement between the two agencies, most discrimination charges are investigated by the EEOC.  Because Tennessee is a “deferral state,” discrimination charges must be filed within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act.  Continue Reading What are the Protected EEO/Non-Discrimination Categories in Tennessee?

Yes.  What laws apply to you as an employer often is dependent upon the number of employees you have.  In addition, how you count employees also matters.  (full-time only or do part-time count? What is employed for only part of a year?).

This article will provide a brief breakdown of some “head-count” numbers that are important in determining that information.  This is not intended as an all-inclusive list but provides some general guidance on when an employer may need to take a more detailed look to determine if certain laws apply.

Continue Reading Does it Matter How Many Employees I Have?