3 Employment Laws Tennessee Physicians Should Know

Debra Beaulieu, June 22, 2017

Physicians contemplating moving to Tennessee for employment, and accustomed to certain protections in other states, may be surprised to learn of these three laws.

Phillis Rambsy, JD, an employment attorney, spends a great deal of time reading and re-reading statutes dictating employers' and employees' rights in Tennessee.

Although some such laws are unique to the Volunteer State (for example, a person cannot be fired for tobacco use under Tenn Code Ann: 50-1-304) those who wish to get paid for their labors can find variations of many other rules throughout the country.

"You can find a few a few laws that only apply in a certain state, but most aren't related to employment law. It's the application of law that may differ more by state," she says.

But doctors are not guaranteed protection under the following circumstances, she notes:

1. Being Gay

Believe it or not, even though same-sex marriage is legal according to the U.S. Constitution, there is no law in Tennessee that protects gay or transgender employees. In other words, a female physician can marry another woman in the state, but could lose her job for sharing the news at work, says Rambsy, a partner with Spiggle Law Firm.

"It's really hard to reconcile that legally. The Supreme Court has been clear that same-sex marriage is legal, but it has not yet determined whether Title VII—the statute that prohibits discrimination based on sex, gender, religion, and national origin—includes sexual orientation," Rambsy says.

What's more, Tennessee does have a law on the books that prohibits any local government or city from expanding on protections further than the state, she adds, with a small exception pertaining to city employees in three major cities.

2. Being Bullied

There are laws to protect employees from discrimination based on protected classes such as race, sex, religion, national origin, and disability. And in at least 50% of bullying cases, the victim falls into one such protected class, Rambsy says, giving attorneys the ability to file a claim under Title VII or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Debra Beaulieu

Debra Beaulieu is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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