Most private sector employees in Tennessee are classified as “employees at will.” That means the employment relationship can be terminated by either the employer or employee at any time, without notice and for any reason that is not illegal or against public policy (i.e., not involving race, gender, disability or age discrimination, etc.). Thus, absent some contractual provision to the contrary, employees classified as “at will” can walk out at any time and bear no legal responsibility for losses sustained by their employer as a result of their sudden absence.
In Our Judgment
Providing insight on developments in labor and employment law affecting East Tennessee employers and employees.
Earlier this year I posted regarding an expanding collaboration between various state and federal agencies to combat misclassification of employees as independent contractors. This effort is being spearheaded by the US Department of Labor, which reports receiving numerous complaints of misclassification for the purposes of avoiding minimum wage and overtime compensation requirements, unemployment insurance and workers compensation coverage. Very recently, the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division Administrator issued an "Administrator's Interpretation" providing guidance on the factors to be analyzed when determining whether a worker should be classified as an employee or independent contractor for purposes of federal minimum wage and overtime laws and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
On June 25, 2015 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum to its regional and state enforcement offices announcing a new inspection emphasis for inpatient healthcare providers such as hospitals and residential care facilities. The impetus for this initiative is the significantly higher rates of workplace injuries in these employment settings attributable to several identified causes, including musculoskeletal injuries, slips, trips and falls and workplace violence.
The United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Obergefell v Hodges striking down state law prohibitions of same sex marriage and requiring states to recognize such marriages from other states will have some immediate impact in the workplace. That is particularly true for employers in states such as Tennessee where no prior lower federal court decision invalidated Tennessee's constitutional ban on same sex marriages.
My final post in this 3 part series addresses non-competes from the employee's perspective. I am regularly retained to review noncompetition agreements (“noncompetes”) by employees who were fired or resigned to accept another job.