Client Alert for Tennessee Employers

July 08, 2010

English-Only and Protection for Volunteer Rescue Squad Workers

Governor Phil Bredesen signed House Bill 2685 on June 23, 2010, and it contains some important implications for the Tennessee employers. Under the legislation, employers are authorized to require employees to speak only English at certain times when the employer has a legitimate business necessity for such a policy. Employees are allowed to speak in a foreign language during non-working time, such as breaks and meal periods. Employers must provide notice to employees of the policy and of the consequences of violating the policy.

Another provision of the bill prohibits employers from terminating an employee because the employee, when acting as a volunteer rescue squad worker, is absent or late for work in order to respond to an emergency prior to the time the employee is to report for work. Employees are to make a reasonable effort to notify the employer that he or she may be late, and the employer has the right to require written verification from the rescue squad supervisor that the employee responded to an emergency that lists the date and time of the emergency.

The bill was signed June 23, and both provisions of the bill take effect immediately.

SESCO clients and SESCO association members may contact SESCO to discuss compliance and policy development to meet the requirements of this new law. You may reach us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com .