COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients.
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Labor & Employment Law FAQ


Q: Can Employers Fire Employees that Test Positive for COVID-19?

A: Yes. Tennessee remains an employment at-will state. This means that, as a general matter, an employer may fire employees for no reason or any reason with limited exceptions. Federal and Tennessee state law prohibit adverse employment actions on the basis of select protected classes. These include age, race, sex and others in limited contexts. There is no comprehensive federal or Tennessee law that prohibits adverse employment action on the basis of medical issues.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act does provide protection for employees in some circumstances. We recommend reading the US Department of Labor’s website on the subject to better understand if this may apply to your situation.

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Q: Are Companies Required to Provide Protective Equipment for Their Employees Such as Masks and Gloves in Response to COVID-19?

A: No. There is no generally applicable federal or Tennessee state law that imposes this requirement. Companies are encouraged to provide equipment like gloves, masks, hand sanitizer as available, yet they are most likely not required to do so.

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Q: What Protections do Federal Laws Offer to Employees That Test Positive for COVID-19?

A: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides protection for employees in some circumstances including those that test positive for COVID-19. We recommend reading the US Department of Labor’s website on the subject to better understand how this applies.

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Q: Can Employers Mandate Employees Work From Home?

A: In general, the answer to this question is yes. Federal and Tennessee guidance has recommended allowing for telework or work from home for those that are able. In general, employers may set the conditions for employees to work. Governor Bill Lee has recommended employers allow employees to work remotely when possible.

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Q: May Employers Require Essential Employees to Work in Person or Be Subject to Disciplinary Action?

A: Yes. Employers are allowed to set working conditions for employees that do not violate the law. In Tennessee, all essential businesses are allowed to continue operations during the safer at home order.

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Q: What are Essential Businesses or Essential Employees in Tennessee?

A: Governor Bill Lee’s safer at home order designation of essential businesses is quite broad and may encompass much more activity than many people realize. At minimum essential employees are: healthcare, human services, infrastructure, government function, food and medicine stores, food and beverage production, charities and social services, religious and ceremonial (provided they comply with health guidelines “to the greatest extent practicable”, media, gas stations, financial institutions, hardware stores, critical trades, mail and delivery services, educational institutions (provided they follow health guidelines “to the greatest extent practicable”), laundry, restaurants for off-premises consumption, supplies to work from home, supplies for essential business and operations, transportation (specifically mentioning uber and lyft), home based care and services, residential facilities and shelters, professional services, manufacturing distribution, and supply chain, hotels and motels, funeral services, and "the minimum necessary activities required to maintain any business or organization, whether otherwise essential or not." With such an extensive list the key question may be if there exists a business that could not arguably fall into any of those categories. See this document.

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DISCLAIMER: All information, content, and material available or provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Any links to other third-party websites provided on this website are provided only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser, and Cole Law Group does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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