Three New Tennessee Laws Impact Employers (June 15, 2022)

(1) The “CROWN” Act

This law is actually entitled “CROWN Act: Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. ”It applies to private employers with at least one (1) employee, and includes the State of Tennessee and its political subdivisions. The law prohibits employers from adopting a policy that prohibits an employee from wearing hair in “braids, locs, twists, or another manner” that is part of the cultural identification of the employee’s ethnic group or that is a physical characteristic of the employee’s ethnic group. While the law does not create a private right of action, an employee may file a complaint for violation with the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor who may then provide a “warning” to the employer. The law does not apply where (a) such a hairstyle would prevent a public safety employee from performing the essential functions of the job, nor (b) where an employer must adhere to “common industry safety standards,” safety measures, or federal or state laws, rules, etc. relative to health or safety. Signed by Governor Lee on May 27, 2022, the Act is effective July 1, 2022. The law will be codified as part of Title 50, Chapter 1, Part 3 of the Tennessee Code.

(2) Veteran’s Day Holiday

The law provides that a veteran is allowed to take Veteran’s Day (November 11) as a non‐paid holiday provided he/she provides the employer with at least one month’s written notice of the intent to take the entire day as a holiday. The law applies to employers with at least one (1) employee and includes the State of Tennessee and its political subdivisions. The term “veteran” is defined as “a former member of the armed forces of the U.S., or a former or current member of a reserve or Tennessee national guard unit who was called into active military service of the U.S., as defined in TCA §58‐1‐102.” The law requires that the veteran employee provide the employer with proof of veteran status, and that the veteran employee’s absence does not cause the employer “significant economic or operational disruption as determined by the employer.” Finally, the law, which is codified at TCA §15‐1‐105, does not prohibit an employer from allowing the employer’s veteran employees to have the entirety of Veteran’s Day as a paid holiday.

Neither law mandates employers to update policies or handbooks, but Tennessee employers would be wise to ensure that supervisors and managers are aware of these new laws.

(3) Wage and Hour

Finally, the “Tennessee Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act” requires that an employer shall pay an employee who is impaired by age, physical or mental deficiency, or injury, no less than the federal minimum wage under 29 U.S.C. §206, regardless of the subminimum wage authorized pursuant to the federal law at 29 U.S.C. § 214(C). This Act also takes effect July 1,2022.

©2022 Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones PLLC. This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers may consult with any of the attorneys at Wimberly Lawson to determine how laws, suggestions and illustrations apply to specific situations.