Racial Discrimination Labor Laws in Tennessee


Area of Law: 

Being an at-will employment state, Tennessee gives both employers and employees a lot of rights.  Anyone can take or quit a job at will, for any reason, and any employer can offer or terminate a job at will, for any reason.  This does not mean, however, that an employer can disregard federal and state laws regarding racial discrimination or that a company can establish reasons for hiring or firing individuals based on skin color, ethnicity, or national origin.  If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your race or national origin, you most certainly should file a complaint.


But what happens if you file a complaint and your company finds out about it?  Won't the company just fire you and claim it was at-will?  Certainly many people are afraid of reporting discrimination for fear of losing their jobs, but in the state of Tennessee there is a so-called "whistle blower's law," which protects the rights of those people who report illegal company practices to the government.  This means that if you have been discriminated against and you report it, your company can not retaliate by firing or punishing you or by docking your pay.  Even if it comes down to a court case and you are called to testify against your boss, the company must treat you fairly even after the judgment is issued.


As an employee under Tennessee statutory law, you cannot be forced to participate in discriminatory activities.  If you are asked by another staff member or a member of management to do something that you think is illegal in terms of discrimination, then you are well within your rights to refuse to do it, and you cannot be fired for doing so.  Likewise, if you are asked to keep quiet about discriminatory practices, you cannot be disciplined for reporting them.


Tennessee legislators are working to make sure that there are firm laws in place to discourage discriminatory practices in the workplace.  These laws protect people who would be discriminated against as well as people who would be asked by others to help them discriminate.  If you are in either of these positions, the law is firmly on your side, and you can file a claim to get proceedings for your discrimination case underway.


One of the most common workplace issues in terms of racial discrimination is decisions being made based on racial stereotypes or assumptions about what sorts of activities certain races are "naturally good" at.  Whether this stereotyping is done with intended malice or not, it is still illegal.  Tennessee law does not accept excuses that stereotyping is harmless or that it was "done as a joke."  The workplace should be comfortable for everyone regardless of ethnicity and such hateful and negative practices need to be stopped.  If you feel you have a discrimination claim, contact a lawyer as soon as you can as there are statutes of limitations that you must adhere to in order to have a valid claim.