Tennessee Labor Laws That Employees Should Know About


Most people work hard to earn money. They need it to pay for groceries, gas, bills and anything else they might want to purchase. Money is a precious commodity that everyone is always trying to get more of. Some people get more money by working harder. Others get it by taking advantage of people.

Things can be particularly bad when it is an employer that is taking advantage of its employees. This can lead to employees getting paid less than what they are owed for the work they did. To prevent this from happening, the state of Tennessee has several labor laws meant to protect employees from dishonest employers.

Bad Employers Do Exist

Some of the basics that Tennessee’s labor laws cover include minimum wage, overtime and requiring employees to work off the clock. By putting stuff about these kinds of practices into law, the state of Tennessee has made it very difficult for employers to take advantage of hardworking employees.

There are plenty of bad employers out there who will overwork their employees and threaten to replace the person with someone else if they don’t like the working conditions. Other employers make sure that all of their employees are only considered part-time employees so that they do not have to provide certain benefits.

People are better off avoiding employers that are sneaky and shady, but since they are so common, Tennessee is very much on top of it when it comes to labor laws.

Tennessee’s Minimum Wage

Tennessee is currently working on making the minimum wage to be $15 an hour by the year 2023. The current minimum wage for 2020 is $13 an hour, for companies with 26 or more employees and $12 an hour for companies with 25 or fewer employees.

This state minimum wage overrides the federal minimum wage which is set at $7.25 an hour.

Employers cannot pay less than the state minimum wage to their employees except under specific circumstances, such as:

  • The person is an independent contractor.
  • The person is a student employee.
  • The person is a camp counselor.
  • The person is a participant in a national service program.
  • The person is mentally or physically handicapped and working for a non-profit or rehabilitation facility.
  • The person is an outside salesperson, someone who spends more than half of their working hours away from the employer’s place of business selling and obtaining items.

It is important to note that employers in Tennessee have to pay waiters and other employees who work for tips minimum wage. Employees also cannot agree to be paid less than minimum wage.

Overtime Laws

Some employers prefer to overwork their employees and never let them get a day off. This is why the state has strict overtime laws that list when exactly an employee needs to be paid for overtime. These instances are:

  • When the employee has worked more than 8 hours that day.
  • When the employee has worked more than 40 hours that week.
  • When the employee has worked more than 6 days that week.

When an employee meets any one of those requirements, their employer has to pay them overtime pay. Typically in Tennessee, this is 1.5 times the employee’s regular hourly pay. So if a minimum wage employee qualifies for overtime, then their employee needs to pay them $19.50 an hour for each hour of overtime worked.

Overtime only applies to non-exempt employees, such as those who are paid a salary rather than hourly. Under Tennessee law, an employee can be considered exempt from overtime laws if they:

  • Spend more than half of their time doing creative, intellectual or managerial work.
  • Exercise discretion and independent judgment regularly when performing that work.
  • Earn a monthly salary that is at least double the state minimum wage for a 40-hour workweek.

If all three of those criteria are met, then the employee can be considered exempt and the employer does not have to pay them overtime.

What Is Hazard Pay

Hazard pay is an additional payment that an employer may agree to pay to their employee who is working a hazardous job. No law in Tennessee requires employers to pay their employees hazard pay. There isn’t even a law that defines what hazards can earn hazard pay.

The following conditions and jobs can be considered hazardous and worthy of hazard pay:

  • War zones
  • Hostile locations
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Dangerous or extreme weather

Since there is no law regulating it, hazard pay is an agreement between employer and employee. Typically, hazard pay is an extra percentage of the employee’s wage. For instance, if an employee regularly is paid $13 an hour, and their employer has agreed to pay them an extra 10% as hazard pay, then that person would make $14.30 an hour while working in hazardous conditions. If the employee qualifies for overtime while earning hazard pay, then they’d be paid time and a half based on the hazard pay rate ($14.30) instead of being paid off of their regular rate ($13). This means the overtime rate in this example would be $21.45 an hour.

Some companies have begun issuing hazard pay for people who are working jobs that put them at a greater risk of being exposed to the coronavirus.

Don’t Let An Employer Take Advantage Of You

This is just a quick sample of some of the more basic labor laws. If a person is aware of these facts, they are less likely to be taken advantage of by their employer. This means that they will be paid what they have earned without having to worry about their boss shorting them.

When everyone is paid a fair rate and no one is taking advantage of anyone, employees tend to be a lot happier.