2021 Tennessee Code
Title 50 - Employer and Employee
Chapter 2 - Wage Regulations
Part 1 - General Provisions
§ 50-2-103. Payment of Employees in Private Employments

Universal Citation: TN Code § 50-2-103 (2021)

    1. All wages or compensation of employees in private employment shall be due and payable not less frequently than once per month.

    2. For each employer that makes wage payments once monthly to employees in private employments, all wages or compensation earned and unpaid prior to the first day of any month shall be due and payable not later than the fifth day of the succeeding month.

    3. For each employer that makes wage payments in two (2) or more periods per month, all wages and compensation of employees in private employments shall be due and payable as follows:

      1. All wages or compensation earned and unpaid prior to the first day of any month shall be due and payable not later than the twentieth day of the month following the one in which the wages were earned; and

      2. All wages or compensation earned and unpaid prior to the sixteenth day of any month shall be due and payable not later than the fifth day of the succeeding month.

    4. For the purposes of this subsection (a), the final wages of an employee who quits or is discharged shall include any vacation pay or other compensatory time that is owed to the employee by virtue of company policy or labor agreement. This subdivision (a)(4) does not mandate employers to provide vacations, either paid or unpaid, nor does it require that employers establish written vacation pay policies.

  1. “Private employment,” as used in subsection (a), means and includes all employments in concerns where five (5) or more employees are employed, except those under the direct management, supervision and control of the United States, this state, any county, incorporated city or town, or other municipal corporation or political subdivision of the state, or any office or department of the state or general government.

  2. Nothing contained in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the payment of wages at more frequent periods than required pursuant to subsection (a).

  3. Every employer shall establish and maintain regular pay days as provided in this section, and shall post and maintain notices, printed or written in plain type or script, in at least two (2) conspicuous places where the notices can be seen by the employees as they go to and from work, setting forth the regular pay day as prescribed in subsection (a).

    1. The payment of wages or compensation of employees in the employments defined in this section shall be made as follows:

      1. In lawful money of the United States;

      2. By a good and valid negotiable check or draft, payable on presentation of the check or draft at some bank or other established place of business without discount, exchange or cost of collection, in lawful money of the United States;

      3. Electronic automated fund transfer in lawful money of the United States; or

      4. Credit to a prepaid debit card issued through a network system from which the employee is able to withdraw or transfer funds, subject to the limitations contained in subdivisions (e)(2) and (3).

    2. An employer who chooses to compensate its employees using prepaid debit cards under subdivision (e)(1)(D) shall also give employees the choice of being paid by electronic transfer under subdivision (e)(1)(C). If after the employer has explained this system to an employee and provided full written disclosure of any applicable fees associated with the prepaid debit card and the employee does not designate an account at a financial institution in advance and as required by the employer for the payroll transfer to occur, then the employer may arrange to pay such employee by prepaid debit card pursuant to subdivision (e)(1)(D).

    3. If an employer pays its employees their wages on a prepaid debit card pursuant to subdivision (e)(1)(D), then such employer shall ensure that each employee shall have the ability to make at least one (1) withdrawal or transfer from the prepaid debit card per pay period without cost to the employee for any amount contained on the card.

  4. In case an employee in the employments defined in this section is absent from the usual place of employment at the time the payment of wages or compensation is due and payable, the employee shall be paid the wages or compensation within a reasonable time after making a demand for the wages or compensation.

  5. Any employee who leaves or is discharged from employment shall be paid in full all wages or salary earned by the employee no later than the next regular pay day following the date of dismissal or voluntary leaving, or twenty-one (21) days following the date of discharge or voluntary leaving, whichever occurs last. No employer shall, by any means, secure an exemption from this subsection (g).

      1. Except as provided in subdivision (h)(2), each employee shall have a thirty-minute unpaid meal break if scheduled to work six (6) hours consecutively, except in workplace environments that by their nature of business provide ample opportunity to take an appropriate meal break. The meal break shall not be scheduled during or before the first hour of scheduled work activity.

      2. For purposes of this subsection (h), “meal break” means a rest break or meal period.

      1. At the discretion of an employer, an employee who is principally employed in the service of food or beverages to customers and who, in the course of such employment, receives tips and reports the tips to the employer may waive the employee's right to a thirty-minute unpaid meal break.

      2. To waive the meal break, an employee shall submit a waiver request to the employer in writing on a form established by the employer as provided in subdivision (h)(C)(i). For the waiver to be effective:

  6. The employee must submit the request knowingly and voluntarily; and

  7. The department of labor and workforce development shall enforce this section. Each employer, during normal business hours, shall make available to inspectors of the department specific wage and payroll records of its employees maintained on the premises that are pertinent to a written complaint. Records that are maintained off the premises or inaccessible shall be made available to the inspectors on a timely basis as agreed upon by the inspector and the employer.

The employer and employee must both consent to the waiver.

An employer who intends to enter into waiver agreements with employees subject to this subdivision (h)(2) shall establish a reasonable policy that permits employees to waive the meal break subject to the demands of the employees' work environment. This policy shall be in writing and posted in at least one (1) conspicuous place in the workplace. The policy shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

A waiver form that contains a statement that the employee acknowledges the employee's right, under state law, to receive an unpaid meal break of not less than thirty (30) minutes during a six-hour work period and that the employee is knowingly and voluntarily waiving this right;

The length of time the waiver will be in effect; and

Procedures for rescission of the waiver agreement by the employee or employer.

An employer or employee may rescind a waiver agreement after providing notice to the other party. Such notice must be provided at least seven (7) calendar days prior to the date that the waiver will no longer be in effect.

No employer shall coerce an employee into waiving a meal break.

A violation of this section is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500). Further, every employer, partnership or corporation willfully violating this section is subject to a civil penalty of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) at the discretion of the commissioner or the commissioner's designated representative. Each and every infraction constitutes a separate and distinct offense. If the commissioner, or the commissioner's designated representative, determines that the violation was unintentional, there shall be a warning, in lieu of a penalty, on the first offense. On second or subsequent violations, the civil penalty is applicable and may be assessed at the discretion of the commissioner or the commissioner's designated representative. It shall be at the sole discretion of the commissioner to elect to proceed either civilly or criminally upon any violation of this part; however, the employer shall not be charged both civilly and criminally for the same violation.

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