Tennessee Wage Law Explained
If you believe you’ve been deprived of the compensation to which you’re legally entitled, please contact the Lore Law Firm. Our overtime rights lawyers represent Tennessee employees who have been subjected to workplace wage and hour violations and take cases on a contingent fee basis – no fee if no recovery of backpay.
Understanding Tennessee Wage and Overtime laws
While Tennessee does have certain state labor laws that differ from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the state law applies only in instances where it provides greater rights or protections than federal law. Whichever law (state or federal) is more favorable to the worker will apply. In most instances, however, federal law will cover issues involving overtime pay and minimum wage.
The current Tennessee minimum wage and the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
Tennessee state labor laws regarding the payment of overtime are largely consistent with the federal overtime laws. As most employers are covered by the FLSA, generally the FLSA will apply and requires employers to pay time and a-half for all hours worked over 40 per workweek, unless an employee is properly classified as exempt.
For minimum wage workers in Tennessee, the overtime pay rate amounts to $10.88 per hour (1.5 x $7.25).
Reporting Time / Show-Up Pay
Tennessee wage laws do not require reporting pay or show-up pay when workers show up for a scheduled shift but are sent home due to no available work.
An employer doesn’t violate overtime laws by requiring employees to work overtime, (ie “mandatory overtime”), as long as they are properly compensated at the premium rate required by law.
Which Employees are Entitled to Overtime Pay
Most workers in Tennessee are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. In certain circumstances, however, there are exemptions.
Employees engaged in executive, administrative, or professional capacities (and paid at least $455 per week on a salary basis) are exempt from the overtime requirement. Note that new minimum salary requirements for these overtime exemptions take effect in January 2020 and increase the minimum salary threshold to $684 per week (or $35,568 annually). This change in federal law will also apply to most workers in Tennessee when making the determination of whether they are classified as exempt or non-exempt from the overtime pay laws.
Misclassification of Independent Contractors
Misclassification occurs when a business treats its workers as independent contractors (or subcontractors) rather than employees to avoid legal obligations such as social security taxes, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and overtime pay.
While there are situations in which workers are legitimately running their own business and properly treated as independent contractors who are not entitled to receive overtime, employers are not allowed to mischaracterize employee roles to avoid paying overtime compensation.
Merely labeling a worker as an independent contractor, or even entering into a written agreement, is not enough to avoid the labor laws on overtime pay.
There are several factors to be considered in determining if a worker in Tennessee is an employee or independent contractor (a/k/a 1099 employee)
If properly classified as an independent contractor under Tennessee law, workers are typically eligible for only the specific compensation bargained for in a contract.
In general, an employer cannot make any deductions from a worker’s paycheck without the worker’s consent to the deductions, unless the worker has previously signed a written agreement.
Tennessee wage laws were amended effective May 11, 2017 as follows:
(1) All wages or compensation of employees in private employment shall be due and payable not less frequently than once per month.
(2) For each employer that makes wage payments once monthly to employees in private employments, all wages or compensation earned and unpaid prior to the first day of any month shall be due and payable not later than the fifth day of the succeeding month.
(3) For each employer that makes wage payments in two (2) or more periods per month, all wages and compensation of employees in private employments shall be due and payable as follows:
(A) All wages or compensation earned and unpaid prior to the first day of any month shall be due and payable not later than the twentieth day of the month following the one in which the wages were earned; and
(B) All wages or compensation earned and unpaid prior to the sixteenth day of any month shall be due and payable not later than the fifth day of the succeeding month
Tennessee law requires that an employer pay an employee who leaves or is discharged from employment in full for all wages or salary earned by the employee no later than the next regular pay day following the date of dismissal or voluntary leaving, or twenty-one (21) days following the date of discharge or voluntary leaving, whichever occurs last.
Pay Stubs / Pay Statements
Tennessee labor law requires that employers provide employees a statement of the hours worked during the applicable pay period and a record of all deductions made from employee’s gross earnings for the pay period.
Meal and Rest Breaks
The Tennessee Wage and Hour Laws require that employees must be provided a thirty (30) minute unpaid meal or rest period if scheduled six (6) consecutive hours, except in workplace environments the nature of business provides for ample opportunity to rest or take an appropriate break.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that an employer give employees any mandatory rest breaks or meal breaks.
Vacation or Holiday Leave
Tennessee doesn’t require employers to provide workers with paid or unpaid vacation leave.
Statute of Limitations
Tennessee’s deadline for filing an overtime claim adheres to the FLSA, which requires those seeking to recover unpaid back overtime wages file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the employer’s wage violation. So, a lawsuit filed today would be able to seek recovery of back overtime for only the prior 2 (sometimes 3) years.
As an example, suppose you believe that your employer has failed to pay you proper overtime wages since January 1, 2016. Waiting until June 1, 2019, to file your lawsuit means you are only allowed to seek unpaid wages from June 1, 2017, to June 1, 2019.
The statute of limitations may be extended to three years if an employer’s violation of the FLSA was willful. An FLSA violation is deemed willful if the employer knew that its conduct was prohibited by the FLSA or showed reckless disregard.
Penalties for Violations
Under Tennessee law, employers who violate the Payment of Wages Act are subject to a civil penalty of $100 for each violation. Employees can recover up to three times the full amount of unpaid wages, costs, and attorney’s fees.
Under federal law, employers who fail to pay proper overtime wages may be liable for up to double the amount of unpaid back wages plus costs and attorney’s fees incurred by employees. These cases can be brought by overtime pay lawyers on a class or collective basis on behalf of all workers who were subjected to the same illegal pay practices.
Layoffs, Plant Closings and WARN Notices
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) offers protection to Tennessee workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs. This notice must be provided to either affected workers or their representatives (e.g., a labor union).
An employer who violates the WARN Act by failing to provide appropriate notice is liable to each employee for an amount up to 60 days back pay and benefits for the period of violation.
Lore Law Firm is On Your Side
At the Lore Law Firm, we represent salaried, hourly, and day-rate workers in an array of employment litigation matters, including unpaid overtime compensation claims in Tennessee. Our attorneys, and the Tennessee overtime law attorneys we associate with, are passionate about protecting the rights of workers and have helped recover millions of dollars in unpaid overtime wages for our clients.
Contact us for a free and confidential review of your situation.