The Tennessee Human Rights Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of sex (TN Code Sec. 4-21-101et seq.). Discrimination based on sex includes sexual harassment. The law covers public employers and private employers with eight or more employees.
Courts in Tennessee interpret the state Human Rights Act similarly to the federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Campbell v. Florida Steel Corp., 919 SW.2d 26 (TN 1996)). The Tennessee Human Rights Commission has adopted the federal regulation defining sexual harassment (TN Code Sec. 4-21-202). Under the adopted rule, sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
• Submission to the conduct is made a term or condition of employment,
• Submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions, or
• The conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
No individual liability. Effective July 1, 2014, an individual employee or agent of an employer cannot be liable for any violation of the Act (TN Code Sec. 4-21-301(b) ).
The state law overturns a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that accomplice liability for a supervisor in a hostile work environment claim may be imposed if the evidence establishes that the supervisor encouraged the employer to engage in employment-related discrimination or prevented the employer from taking corrective action (Allen v. McPhee, 240 SW.3d 803 (TN 2007)).