Yes. Because Tennessee is an at-will employment state, you can get fired for any reason that is not discriminatory or retaliatory. Unless your working hours are defined in a contract and overtime is specifically addressed, your boss has every right to set your schedule – and fire you if you do not comply.
Nevertheless, your employer must pay you 1.5 times your regular hourly wage (time and a half) for any overtime you work. In Tennessee, overtime kicks in whenever you work more than 40 hours in a workweek.
For more information about your rights, please read our blog: “Understanding Tennessee Overtime Laws.”
Is Mandatory Overtime Legal in Tennessee?
According to Tennessee overtime laws, yes, with few exceptions. An employer doesn’t violate state or federal overtime laws by making overtime mandatory. In some industries, however, there are limits on how many hours can be worked in a day or week. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets hours of service regulations for commercial drivers, so they do not fall asleep at the wheel.
Anytime your employer violates state or federal regulations, you are allowed to file a complaint. Your employer may not fire you for filing a complaint.
Can I Refuse to Work Overtime if My Employer Does Not Pay Me for It?
Once again, Tennessee is an at-will employment state. You can refuse to work overtime, but your employer can refuse to employ you.
On the other hand, your employer cannot fire you in retaliation for making a complaint, so if you are not making time and a half, you should complain. Alert your employer and HR department (if you have one) and ask them to remedy the situation. Keep a record of any communication you have with your employer about overtime and communicate in writing (via email) whenever possible.
If this approach fails, you can escalate your complaint to the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. Remember, your employer may not fire you for making – or escalating – a complaint.
If you get fired after requesting the overtime you are entitled to, you have likely suffered wrongful termination, and you may be entitled to compensation.
Donati Law, PLLC can help you win a wrongful termination suit or recover back wages from unpaid overtime in Tennessee. We have been handling cases like yours for more than 35 years, and our mission is to improve the lives of workers like you.