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January 10, 2024 | BusinessEmployment

What To Do When Your Tennessee Employer Refuses to Pay You

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David Fish

Senior Counsel

Matthew Fulton

Associate Attorney

Ideally, employers pay their employees promptly and regularly for the time that they work.  However, occasionally employers may refuse to pay their employees, leaving workers in a difficult position.  If you find yourself facing this situation in Tennessee, it’s essential to understand your rights and the steps you can take to recover your unpaid wages.

What Constitutes Unpaid Wages in Tennessee?

Unpaid wages means any earned income that an employer fails to pay.  This includes regular wages, overtime pay, and any other compensation agreed upon between the employer and employee.  If your employer is withholding your wages, it is crucial to identify the specific amounts owed and gather evidence of the work you have completed.

Unpaid Wage Laws in Tennessee

Tennessee has laws that protect employees from employers failing to pay wages.  The Tennessee Wage Regulation Act (TNWRA), administered by the Division of Labor Standards within the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, outlines the rules employers must follow regarding wages earned by their workers.  The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) also plays a significant role in setting minimum wage standards and governing overtime pay.

The TNWRA requires that employers pay employees their final paycheck within a certain timeframe.  Similarly, the TNWRA also requires that employers pay their employees not less than once per month.  Private employers with more than five employees are further required to establish and maintain regular paydays.  Generally, employers may not make deductions from paychecks without written consent.  This means that an employer may not deduct the cost of uniforms, equipment, shortages, or company loans from paychecks unless the employee has consented in writing.

Under the FLSA and state law, the current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour in Tennessee. Tennessee employers may not pay an employee below this rate.  Violations of wage laws can result in serious consequences for employers, including fines and legal action.

Statute of Limitations For Filing an Unpaid Wage Claim

If you have been denied your earned wages, it is essential to act promptly.  In Tennessee, there is a statute of limitations for filing an unpaid wage claim.  Generally, you have one year from the date the wages were due to file a claim.  Waiting beyond this period may result in losing your right to recover the unpaid wages.

What Steps Should You Take to Recover Unpaid Wages?

Keep Detailed Records: Maintain accurate records of the hours you work, including dates, times, and any relevant documents or communications with your employer regarding your wages.

Communicate with Your Employer: Before taking legal action, attempt to resolve the issue amicably.  Communicate with your employer, providing evidence of the work performed and explaining your concerns about unpaid wages.

File a Claim with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development: If communication fails, you can file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards.  Ensure you submit the claim within the one-year statute of limitations.

Consult Federal Law: If your wages fall below the federal minimum wage, you may also file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor under the FLSA.

Protection From Retaliation

Employees in Tennessee are protected from retaliation when pursuing their rights to unpaid wages.  If you file a wage claim or complain about unpaid wages, it is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you. Retaliation can take several forms, including termination, demotion, or harassment.  If you experience retaliation, document the incidents and seek legal advice quickly.

Contact an Experienced Employment Attorney Today

In conclusion, Tennessee employees have rights when it comes to receiving fair compensation for their work.  If your employer fails to pay you, it is important to understand your rights.  By being proactive and informed, you can increase your chances of recovering the wages you rightfully earned.

If your attempts to recover unpaid wages are unsuccessful or if you face retaliation, seeking legal counsel is advisable.  An experienced employment attorney can guide you through the legal process, ensuring your rights are protected and helping you pursue the wages you deserve.  They can assess the specifics of your case, provide advice on the best course of action, and represent you if legal action becomes necessary.



Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash
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