Your Rights Under Wage & Hour Laws


Tennessee employees are protected by wage and hour laws. These laws dictate the minimum wage that employees may be paid for their work, as well as overtime pay, breaks, leave, child labor, and union memberships. Wage and hour laws are designed to protect employees from employer abuse and to ensure that every worker receives fair compensation for their labor. Learn more about your rights as a Tennessee worker.

Minimum Wage in Tennessee

Tennessee wage laws do not specify a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage. As of 2014, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Employers are forbidden from paying employees less than the federal minimum wage. Tipped workers may be paid $2.13 an hour, so long as they receive the adequate tips. Tips and wages should add up to at least $7.25 per hour for employers to pay the reduced wage.

Overtime in Tennessee

Again, Tennessee law doesn’t specifically address overtime pay, but federal law sets the standard for the state’s employers. According to federal law, employers are required to pay employees at least 1.5 times the rate of their standard pay as overtime pay. Employees are eligible for overtime pay when they have worked more than 40 hours in one week.

Meals & Breaks

Employees are entitled to a certain amount of break time to rest and eat during their shift. If employees are scheduled to work 6 or more hours, they must be given an unpaid 30-minute break during their shift. Nursing mothers are also protected by federal and state law. In the first year after their baby is born, new mothers must be given breaks to nurse or express breast milk while at work.


Employers do not legally need to provide paid or unpaid vacation time. They also do not have to provide paid sick leave. However, the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is meant to help eligible employees take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to allow them to seek medical care or recover when sick, provide care for a family member, or for the birth or adoption of a child. This time is meant to allow families to be healthy and care for new additions to the family.

Right to Work

Tennessee is a “right to work” state, which means that employees are not required to join a union or pay in-kind dues to cover representation costs. Employers may not deny employment to an individual on the grounds of their membership status in a union or their refusal to join. Because right to work laws require unionized workforces to extend the same union representation to non-member workers, there are plenty of legal challenges to these laws. Unions may argue that it is unfair to dues-paying members to support representation for those who will not join the union.

At-Will Employment in Tennessee

Tennessee is an employment at-will state. Employers are able to legally hire, fire, or suspend an employee, and employees may quit at any time for any reason. There are specific protections in place for employees, however. These protections forbid employers from firing or punishing employees several reasons. Protections include protection from:

  • Discrimination for their race, sex, religion, age, national origin, pregnancy, or disability.
  • Being fired (or quitting) contrary to an employment contract.
  • Retaliation for being a whistleblower.
  • Termination due to being called into military service.
  • Discrimination due to political beliefs and activity, so long as it doesn’t interfere with their work.
  • Being prevented from participating in voting.
  • Wage garnishment.
  • Retaliation for or prevention of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Loss of pay due to jury duty.

What Can You Do If Your Rights Are Violated?

If you suspect that your employer is breaking federal or state employment laws and violating your rights, you should contact our Memphis employment law attorneys. Your rights can be violated in a number of ways, from not receiving the pay you are owed to discrimination based on your age, race, sex, religion, or other protected characteristic. Your employer may not violate any employment laws, even if they claim special circumstances.

At Donati Law, PLLC, we are dedicated to providing aggressive, personalized legal representation for our clients. Every worker deserves to be protected, and we have more than 100 collective years of experience to handle your case. We are focused on providing passionate, knowledgeable legal services to our community. Don’t wait to get help challenging your employer and protecting your rights.

Contact our offices to speak to a member of our team. Call (901) 209-5500 today.

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