Normal Working Hours
Tennessee does not have a minimum wage or overtime laws and, thus, has not adopted a definition of hours worked for purposes of compensation calculations. Because most employers and employees in Tennessee are subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the standards for hours worked set forth in that law typically apply.
The Fair Labor Standards Act defines the workweek as a fixed and recurring period of 168 hours comprised of seven consecutive 24-hour periods that do not need to coincide with the calendar week. It is adjustable only if the change is designed to be permanent. Each week is considered on its own for purposes of calculating overtime. The hours of two or more weeks may not be averaged.
Tennessee has no general provision governing overtime pay, but most nonexempt employees would be subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires that all work in excess of 40 hours per week be paid at a rate of one-and-one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay.
Each employee must have a 30-minute unpaid rest break, if scheduled to work 6 hours consecutively, except in workplace environments that by the nature of business provide for ample opportunity to rest or take an appropriate break. Such break shall not be scheduled during or before the first hour of scheduled work activity.
Tennessee does not have a state minimum wage. Most employers, however, will be covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and thus required to pay the federal minimum hourly wage, currently $7.25 per hour.
Local governments are prohibited from setting a minimum wage rate requiring private employers, as a condition of doing business within the jurisdiction or of contracting with the local government, to pay an hourly wage in excess of the rate set under federal or state law.
Tips & Gratuities
Employers of employees who regularly receive $30 a month or more in tips can claim a tip credit of up to $5.12 an hour; the minimum wage for these employees is $2.13 an hour. If an employee’s hourly average of tips plus wages is less than $7.25 an hour, the employer must make up the difference. If a state does not allow for a tip credit or has a tip credit amount that is less than the federal tip credit amount, employers in that state generally must apply the state amount that provides employees the greater benefit. If an employer has a tip-back arrangement with employees, such that employees are required to give or credit their tips to their employer as gross receipts, these tips cannot be credited under the FLSA and the employees must be paid at least a full minimum wage.
Employees must have a 30-minute unpaid rest break or meal period if they are scheduled to work six consecutive hours. Workplaces that, due to the nature of their business, provide ample opportunity for employees to rest or take an appropriate break are exempt from the break requirement. Breaks may not be scheduled during or before the first hour of scheduled work activity.
Employers of tipped employees who are primarily employed to serve food and beverages may allow such employees to waive the right to a 30-minute break. To waive a meal break, the employee must knowingly and voluntarily submit a written request to the employer, and the employer and employee both must consent to the waiver; employers are prohibited from coercing an employee into waiving a break period. Minor employees must be granted an unpaid 30-minute break or meal period is scheduled to work six consecutive hours. The break time must be planned during or before the first hour of a scheduled shift.
Employees may be eligible to take unpaid, job-protected, leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Please refer to main United States
page for further details on this Federal law.
Employers with 100 or more full-time, permanent employees must provide eligible employees with maternity leave. Eligible employees may take up to 4 months of leave for:
- Adoption; or
- Pregnancy; or
- Childbirth; or
- Nursing an infant.
To be eligible for maternity leave under the Tennessee law, an employee must have been employed full-time for at least 12 consecutive months. An eligible employee must give at least three months’ advance notice of his or her anticipated date of departure, length of leave and intention to return to full-time employment after leave unless notice is not possible. Leave may be paid or unpaid, at the discretion of the employer. Job protections apply to employees taking maternity leave. Covered employers must include the maternity leave requirements in all employee handbooks.
An employee who works for an employer with 100 or more employees, and who has been employed for at least 12 consecutive months as a full-time employee, may be absent from employment for a period not to exceed four months for the purpose of adoption, pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing of an infant, where applicable.
An employee who gives at least three months’ advance notice of his or her anticipated date of departure, the length of leave, and his or her intention to return to full-time employment after leave, will be restored to the previous or similar position with the same status, pay, length of service credit and seniority. An employee who does not give three months’ advance notice because of a medical emergency that necessitates that the leave begins earlier than originally anticipated, or because his or her notice of adoption was received less than three months in advance, does not forfeit the right to parental leave. If an employee’s job position is so unique that the company cannot, after reasonable efforts, temporarily fill the position, then the employee has no right to reinstatement at the end of the leave. Parental leave runs concurrent with FMLA leave and may be with or without pay at the discretion of the employer.
Volunteer Firefighter Leave
In accordance with T.C.A. § 50-1-309, a regular employee who is an active volunteer firefighter may be permitted to leave work in order to respond to fire calls during such employee’s regular hours of employment without loss of pay, vacation time, sick leave, or earned overtime accumulation. Such employee may be permitted to take off the next scheduled work period within twelve (12) hours following such response as an annual leave or sick leave day without loss of pay if the employee assisted in fighting such fire for more than four (4) hours.
If the employee is not entitled to an annual leave or sick leave day then such employee may be permitted to take off such a work period without pay. In addition, any employee who is an active volunteer firefighter and who worked for more than four (4) hours the prior day or night as a volunteer firefighter in an emergency may be permitted to take off the next scheduled work period within twelve (12) hours following such emergency as an annual leave or sick leave day without the loss of pay. If the employee is not entitled to an annual leave or sick leave day then such employee may be permitted to take off such a work period without pay. The employer may require the employee to submit a written statement from the chief of the volunteer fire department verifying that such employee responded to a fire or was on-call and specifying the date, time and duration of such response.
Volunteer Rescue Squad Leave
Employers must allow employees to be late for or absent from work if they are volunteer rescue squad members who responded to an emergency that occurred outside of the employee’s normal work hours. Certification requirements apply. Leave is unpaid.
Jury Duty Leave
Employers shall excuse the absence of an employee summoned to jury duty. For the absence to be excused, the employee must exhibit the summons to the employer the day after it is received. For such excused absences, employers with five or more employees must pay the summoned employee his/her “usual compensation” minus the jury service fee for such time spent serving on jury duty. The employee need not return to work on the day or days in which the employee’s responsibility for jury duty exceeds three hours. The employer is not required to compensate an employee for more time than was actually spent serving and traveling to and from jury duty. Employees who work the night shift should be excused from working the shift preceding their first day of jury duty, as well as shifts occurring within 24 hours after a day of jury service lasting more than three hours.
Employers must grant unpaid leave to employees who are members of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard on active state duty and Tennessee State Guard, including any military service performed during emergencies. Employers can’t discriminate against applicants or employees because they are National Guard members.