Tennessee Preempts Minimum Wage and Sick Leave
In 2013 Tennessee enacted bill HB 0501 or Public Chapter 91, a preemption against local employment laws. As the fight for $15 and the movement for paid sick leave gained traction, more states would follow with preemptive laws including Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Missouri. However, the specifics of each law differs. The purpose of this article is to outline the Tennessee preemption employment law.
The law was created to “place certain restrictions on local government authority related to private businesses.” It makes it illegal for local governments to place restrictions, such as licensing or the ability to do business in a specific locality, based on paying a higher minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage.
In other words, cities or counties cannot require require a higher minimum wage in order for a business to get business licenses, approval from local authority, or contracts.
The law also prevents local laws that pertain to leave policies, which would include mandatory sick leave ordinances, local family leave laws, or other time off requirements.
Additionally, other benefit laws are also prohibited including mandatory insurance and wage theft laws.
Thus, local governments cannot make laws above what the state or federal laws already require.
Tennessee has two sick leave laws on the books, the Military sick leave law and the Tennessee Maternity and Adoption Care Leave Act.
Tennessee Military Sick Leave Act
The Tennessee Military Sick Leave Act provides sick leave for military, both federal and state, to take leave for sick leave purposes. The act applied to reserves as well. Once the member has worked for 20 full working days, the leave applies. It allows members of the military to substitute up to 5 days of annual leave time for sick leave. This means that sick days won’t have to be taken off uncompensated.
Tennessee Maternity and Adoption Care Leave Act
The Tennessee Maternity and Adoption Care Leave Act applied to both men and women. The law applied to all companies who have at least 100 employees or more. The employees must be full time and permanent.
In order to qualify for the leave, the employee must have worked at least 12 months for their employer.
The Leave provides up to 4 months of protected leave in the case of pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, or nursing an infant.
EMployees who plan to take leave are required to provide 3 months notice to their employer before taking leave.
The only exception to the 3 month notice requirement is if if a medical necessity requires that leave be taken before 3 months notice can be given or if the employee receives notice of an adoption that is less than 3 months away.
Employees who take leave are typically protected and must be allowed to return to the same or a similar job position and wages. Employees levels of seniority, bonuses, benefits, length of service credit, and other plans and programs that employees were eligible for before the leave must all be reinstated.
There are only three exceptions to employee job protection under the plan. First, if an employee can, but chooses not to provide 3 months notice to their employer, then they don’t have job protection.
Secondly, if an employee has such a unique job that their employer can’t temporarily fill the job, then the employer is not under obligation to reinstate the employee.
Lastly, if the employee works full time or part time for another employer during the leave, then the employer is not required to reinstate the employee back to their job when the leave is completed.
Tennessee Maternity and Adoption Leave does not require that the employer provide paid leave, although businesses may choose to provide paid leave as part of their benefits package. However, it does protect employee and provide leave time for them after adoption or giving birth to a child.
Differences between Tennessee Maternity Leave and FMLA
There are some key differences between the Tennessee Maternity and Adoption Leave Act and FMLA.
First, while Tennessee only requires that an employee be employed for at least 12 months, FMLA also requires that the employee have worked at least 1,250 hours. In addition, FMLA applies to employers with 50 employees or more within a 75 mile radius while Tennessee’s law only applied to businesses with 100 or more full time employees.
Another key difference is that while the Tennessee Maternity Law applies to pregnancy, adoption and childbirth for both fathers and mothers, FMLA has additional provisions. FMLA also applies to serious health conditions of family members and the employee’s own serious health conditions. The Tennessee Maternity Leave Act would only apply to the employee’s own pregnancy, but doesn’t include provisions for other types of serious illnesses.
This means that unless the leave is for a purpose allowed by both Tennessee law and FMLA, then only one leave would be used and the employee would still have additional leave available.
Next, FMLA provides up to 12 weeks, or roughly 3 months of unpaid leave and the Tennessee Law provides 4 months of leave.
Lastly, Tennessee Maternity Leave requires a 3 month notice to the employer, while FMLA generally requires a 30 day notice for leave.
Steps for employers in Tennessee
Although Tennessee employers aren’t required to conform to additional local laws regarding minimum wage and sick leave, they still have a variety of laws regarding employee leave and must navigate between state laws and the Federal FMLA laws, Federal Overtime Laws, and other Federal Employment laws that are enacted..
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Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated May 22, 2017.