Unemployment: The Unemployment Insurance Accountability Act of 2012, signed by Governor Haslam on May 21, 2012, requires—among other things—that unemployment recipients apply for at least three jobs every week or go to a local career center and then submit detailed information to verify these applications. The law provides a new definition of what constitutes “misconduct.” It specifies that misconduct includes but is not limited to, the following conduct by a claimant:  

  • Conscious disregard of the rights or interests of the employer;
  • Deliberate violations or disregard of reasonable standards of behavior that the employer expects of an employee;
  • Carelessness or negligence of such a degree or recurrence to show an intentional or substantial disregard of the employer's interest or to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or shows an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests or of the employee's duties and obligations to the employee's employer;
  • Deliberate disregard of a written attendance policy and the discharge is in compliance with such policy;
  • A knowing violation of a regulation of this state by an employee of an employer licensed by this state, which violation would cause the employer to be sanctioned or have the employer's license revoked or suspended by this state; or
  • A violation of an employer's rule, unless the claimant can demonstrate that:
    • The claimant did not know, and could not reasonably know, of the rule's requirements; or
    • The rule is unlawful or not reasonably related to the job environment and performance.

The legislation calls for disqualification of unemployment benefits for anyone who has been incarcerated for four or more days during any week of unemployment. Under the bill, an employer may also supply information to the state's agency, administering unemployment benefits prior to a request for information being mailed from a claimant. If an employee receives a severance package or wages in lieu of notice, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits until it is paid out. An employee is not eligible for benefits if he or she is laid off and offered the same job or a similar job at the same wages and he or she refuses that job. If a laid-off worker is offered a job back with an employer but the new position requires a drug test, whereas the previous job did not, they must take and pass the test or be considered ineligible for benefits. For more information, see SB 3658/HB 3431.

Employee Meal Breaks: In 2012, the Tennessee Legislature enacted legislation allowing an employee who is principally employed in the service of food or beverages to customers and who receives and reports tips to waive their right to a 30-minute unpaid meal break, at the discretion of the employer. The bill requires the employee to submit a waiver request to the employer in writing on a form established by the employer. The law specifies that in order for the waiver to be effective, the employee must submit the request knowingly and voluntarily and both parties must consent to the waiver. It also requires employers who intend to enter into waiver agreements to establish a reasonable policy in writing and to post the policy in at least one conspicuous place in the workplace. It provides for rescinding of waivers and prohibits coercion by an employer. For more information, see SB 2625/HB 3253.

Employment of Physicians by Nursing Homes: Tennessee Legislature passed a bill allowing nursing homes and their affiliates to employ physicians if certain conditions are met. For more information, see SB 3263/HB 3514.