Tennessee Labor Standards

For more information regarding these labor laws go to:

State of TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TN DOL WD)

State of TN Human Rights Commission (HRC)

US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 

TN Labor Laws


    What if I have a complaint about unfair labor practices?

    Applicants for employment or employees having disabilities may be protected against employment discrimination by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. Those needing information about ADA may visit the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website - http://askjan.org/  or call 800.526.7234 (Voice) 877.781.9403 (TTY)

  • CHILD LABOR ACT Title 50-5-101 – 115

    My child is 15 and wants to work. Where do I get a work permit?

    The state of Tennessee does not require work permits. The minor needs to provide the prospective employer with a copy one of the following documents as proof of age; birth certificate, driver license, state issued ID, or a copy of their passport.

    What is the age a child can go to work? Are there any restrictions?
    In Tennessee, a minor must be 14 years of age before they can work. Some of the restrictions for 14 and 15-year-old minors are:

    Can work no more than 3 hours per day
    Can work no more than 18 hours a week
    Can work no later than 7:00 p.m.

    Can work no more than 8 hours a day
    Can work no more than 40 hours per week
    Can work no later than 9:00 p.m.

    Breaks for minors under age 18:
    Any minor scheduled to work 6 hours must have a thirty (30) minute rest or meal break no exceptions.

    Are these restrictions the same for 16 and 17 year olds?
    No. There are no limitations on the number of hours that 16 and 17-year-old minors work. They cannot be required to work during school hours; nor can they work past 10:00 p.m. on nights preceding school days (Sunday through Thursday nights), unless their parents or guardians sign a Parental Consent Form. The Parental Consent Form would allow them to work no later than 12:00 midnight three of those nights while school is in session.

    The Child Labor Act prohibits minors, whether they are 14 to 15 or 16 to 17 year olds from employment in certain occupations. A copy of the Child Labor Act may be obtained upon request. Note: State and Federal Laws conflict. Therefore, we have quoted the stricter of the two laws.


    How do I file a claim for discriminatory practices?

    Discrimination against employees is illegal under both Federal and State law. Employers may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of the employee's race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin or disability. Claims of discrimination in Tennessee should be forwarded either to the Tennessee Commission on Human Rights in Nashville Tennessee at 615.741.5825, or to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Nashville, Tennessee. Complaints should be forwarded to the TCHR website or the EEOC website.

    Pregnancy Discrimination

    Tennessee also has a specific pregnancy discrimination law that prohibits an employer from discriminating against a pregnant employee.


    Are there any legal restrictions against firing, suspending or disciplining employees?
    Tennessee is known as an "EMPLOYMENT-AT-WILL" state. Generally, this means that an employer may legally hire, fire, suspend or discipline any employee at any time and for any reason - good or bad - or for no reason at all. However, an employer may not discriminate against any employee on the basis of the employee's race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, or disability.

    Also, under the Tennessee "WHISTLE BLOWER'S LAW", the employer may not take any reprisal against an employee who advises the employer that the business is in violation of a law and the employee either discloses, threatens to disclose, or testifies about the violation of law, or the employee objects to or refuses to participate in an employment act in violation of law. 

    There are other exceptions to Tennessee's "EMPLOYMENT-AT-WILL" doctrine. Tennessee employees may not be disciplined or discharged at-will for:

    • Being called to military service
    • Voting in elections 
    • Exercising right of association 
    • Wage garnishment
    • Filing workers' compensation claim 
    • Being called to jury duty (Employer must also pay the employee wages during the jury service less what the court pays.)
    Employees who are fired may still apply for unemployment insurance benefits.  The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Unemployment Insurance Division will determine eligibility.  Further information may be found under the Unemployment Insurance section of this website.

    Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, employers having 50 or more employees must grant medical leave to some employees in certain circumstances without the threat of the loss of their job. Questions concerning the enforcement of FMLA matters should be directed to the FMLA section of the United States Department of Labor's Web site.

    Can an employee be discharged while out sick even though they provide a doctor's statement?
    There are no Tennessee laws regulating terminations. If the employee feels discrimination is involved, they are referred to either the Tennessee Human Rights Commission or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


    Under certain circumstances, Tennessee law allows employers to pay to the surviving spouse or children of a deceased employee the last wages and other benefits due the deceased employee without a court order. 

    Questions concerning an employee's failure to be able to collect their pension or money from a 401(k) plan should be directed to the EBSA (formerly PWBA) section of the United States Department of Labor's web site.

    I am working on a state-funded Prevailing Wage Project? I am performing the duties of a carpenter but not being paid the correct wages. Can you help me?  

    Yes. All contractors on state-funded projects are required to post the wage rate on the job-site and pay the correct rate of pay for each craft they perform.

    Does the Department of Labor and Workforce Development make on-site inspections?
    Yes. On-site inspections are made and employees are interviewed to see if they are being paid the correct rate for the job they are performing. We check to be sure that the wage rate is posted for all employees to verify they are paid the correct wage rates.

    Who sets the prevailing wage rates?
    The Prevailing Wage Commission sets the rates on highway projects every year and on building projects every other year. Both are based on a survey of each industry. For Current Highway Rates or Current Building Rates and Regions see websites.

    If a contractor has not paid the prevailing wage rate, what can be done?
    All claims are investigated and if violations are found, the contractor is required to pay the prevailing wage plus any back wages due.


    Does Tennessee require labor laws to be posted?



    Under Tennessee law deductions can only be taken out of pay if the employee has authorized it by a written statement.

    Tennessee has no wage laws concerning overtime, minimum wage, or the regulation of salaried employees. The United States Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act regulating minimum wage, overtime and salaried employees. 

    What is the law concerning payment of final paychecks to employees?
    Tennessee employees who are laid off, fired, or who quit must be paid their wages in full at the next regular payday, not to exceed 21 days from the date of their discharge or termination. Claims against an employer for late payment may be filed with the Labor Standards Division. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has the authority to enforce this law.

    Isn't my employer required to provide breaks and a meal period?
    State law requires that each employee scheduled to work six (6) consecutive hours must have a thirty (30) minute meal or rest period, except in workplace environments that by their nature of business provides for ample opportunity to rest or take an appropriate break. The failure to give a (30) minute meal or rest period is a violation of State law only. There are no State or Federal requirements for additional breaks. The Federal Law does require breaks of less than 30 minutes in duration to be paid if the employer chooses to grant such breaks.

     How often must my employer pay me?

    All wages or compensation of employees in private employment is due and payable at least semi-monthly and notice of regular paydays must be posted by each employer in at least two conspicuous places.

    My employer has just told me he is going to cut my pay. Can he do this without my approval?
    An employee's pay can be cut with or without his approval as long as the employer tells the employee BEFORE any work is done. The employee cannot work without first knowing the amount of wages to be paid.

    Under Tennessee Wage Regulation Act an employer is prohibited from penalizing an employee or deducting any sum of money as a penalty or fine from the employee's wages.

    Tennessee Wage Regulation Act requires employers of private employments of 5 or more employees to establish and maintain regular pay periods at least twice monthly. Penalties may be accessed for violation of this section against those employers for missing a regularly scheduled payroll date and in paying their employees late.

    Can my employer hold my paycheck until I return my uniform, etc.?
    No. An employer cannot hold your paycheck for any reason.

    Can my employer withhold the cost of my uniform, equipment, company loans, shortages and negligence, etc. from my paycheck?
    No. Your employer cannot make any deductions from your paycheck without your consent to the deductions.

    I work in the same job classification as a person of the opposite sex, but I am paid less. Is this legal?
    No employer shall discriminate between employees in the same establishment on the basis of sex by paying one employee more or less than he pays to any employee of the opposite sex for comparable skill, effort and responsibility in which they are performed under similar working conditions. However, nothing prohibits wage deferential based on a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quality production or any other reasonable deferential which is based on a factor other than sex.

    If I complain about equal pay, whose wages would be adjusted?
    An employer who is paying a wage deferential in violation of the act shall not reduce the wages of any employee in order to be in compliance.

    Can an employer terminate an employee for a claim on equal pay?
    No employer is allowed to terminate or discriminate against any employee who files a claim for equal pay.

    Is an employer required by law to provide paid vacation, holidays, severance pay, sick pay or health insurance?
    No. The State of Tennessee does not have a law that regulates fringe benefits. Company policy would be the determining factor. These and similar matters are also determined by an agreement between the employees and the employer, or their authorized representatives. 

    If an employer's policy provides a paid vacation and the employee's employment is terminated, is the employer required to compensate for any vacation time I have accrued but not used?
    No. Unless the employer's policy or its labor agreement specifically requires compensation of unused "vacation pay or other compensatory time" to an employee upon his or her termination of employment, Tennessee Code Annotated § 50-2-103(a)(3) does not require that an employee's final wages include such compensation.

    If an employee terminates voluntarily or involuntarily, does the employer have to pay all wages due at the time of termination?
    The employer is required to pay all wages or compensation due the terminated employee on the next regular payday following the date of termination or 21 days thereafter, whichever comes last.

    If the employer refuses payment of wages, what can the employee do?
    Anyone who has a problem collecting wages can file a wage claim with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Division of Labor Standards. If the circumstances are such that we are unable to help, the complainant is referred to court.

    If an employee is still employed and the employer is not paying the employee correctly and they file a wage claim, can they be terminated?
    There is no Tennessee law which prevents an employer from firing an employee because they file a complaint with our office, unless the complaint was equal pay.

    Who determines how many hours a part-time employee may work and how long may an employee be consider part-time?
    The employer sets the number of hours and makes the decision when the employee becomes a permanent employee.

    My employer has just told me that I am going to be paid by direct deposit. Can he do this?
    Yes, an employer can change the method of payment to direct deposit. However, the choice of the financial institution must be that of the employee.


    Does TDLWD provide advice on garnishments, tax levies, or other similar withholdings from pay? TDLWD does not have the authority to provide assistance or advice in this area.

    Will TDLWD provide me with legal representation or advice?  The TDLWD Legal Division provides legal services to TDLWD and its offices and employees only. The Legal Division does not offer legal representation, legal opinions or legal advice to the general public. It is recommended those individuals seeking personal counsel request the assistance of a private attorney or Legal Services Corporation.

    As an employer must I provide a former or current employee with a copy of my employment personnel files?  There's no federal law or Tennessee law that requires the employer to do so. The employment file is the property of the employer. The employer is not required to furnish current or former employee’s whole file or specific things in the file.

    However, the employer may choose to furnish a copy. If the employee files suit, they will be able to subpoena the file any way. An employer may charge for example, 50 cents a page, to cover time and cost to copy, payable up front in cash. Example, the person requesting the file should be told how many pages are in the file. If the file consists of fifty pages, they would have to present the employer with $25.00 before the file would be copied.

    The Division of Labor Standards may be contacted by calling 615.741.2858 (option 3) or toll-free at 1.866.588.6814.


    Workplace harassment is a violation of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In order to understand the definition of workplace harassment, it is crucial to know what harassment is and what a workplace consists of.

    Harassment is an act committed by a person that makes another feel uncomfortable, offended, intimidated or oppressed. In order for it to be workplace harassment, it should happen in an environment like an office, a store, a school, a factory or any place where people are employed and conduct work.
    The most common form of workplace harassment is sexual harassment and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has aptly declared that any offense establishing harassment on any protected class is subject to federal punishment. They also stated that the conventions governing sexual harassment be applied to harassments in relation to religion, gender, race, national origin, age
    and disability.

    Harassment acts in the workplace is a form of discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (CRA), passed in 1964 states that “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The key here, is that an individual must not be singled out for different

    Harassment comes in many forms.
    • It can be done orally through degrading words, spoken put downs, jokes or other unwanted comments.
    • It can be through actions like physical contact of any kind, put down gestures or other unwanted acts.
    • If any employee who asks, demand or shows any attempt to get sexual attention from another it is already considered sexual harassment in the workplace.
    Federal law distinguishes two sets of legal grounds for declaring sexual harassment under Title VII of CRA. The first is quid pro quo.

    Under the quid pro quo, a person in authority demands sexual favors from a subordinate in exchange for employment security or job benefits. The second is identified as hostile work environment harassment. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, hostile work environment harassment occurs when offensive conduct is severe enough for an employee to not want to go to work because of the work place harassment he or she is experiencing.

    On the other hand, any action committed by an employee to another that suggests or promotes racial stereotyping and hatred or prejudice is considered punishable under the race discrimination law. Those who commit racial harassment may harass in subtle ways and they usually do it through jokes, and seemingly harmless comments or questions but it ultimately add up to racial discrimination in
    the workplace.

    There is also workplace bullying in which an employee makes gestures or says words that makes another seem inferior. The workplace bully may pick anything that makes another seem different than him and uses this to harass the other. He or she might draw attention to a person’s disability, age, looks, sexual preference, religious belief, race, gender, family or family background, political inclinations or
    union activities, among others.

    Workplace harassment can happen in several settings. It can happen in or out of the formal workplace. It can happen at a company event like picnic or a party. It usually depends upon your relationship with the harasser and your situation at the time of the offense. For example if a direct superior is at your home and asks sexual favors of you, this is still workplace harassment because the offender has direct power over you and may threaten you in your employment. However if this is done by an co-worker who is not your direct supervisor, it can't be considered workplace sexual harassment.

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