Tennessee Affirmative Action laws & HR compliance analysis

Tennessee Affirmative Action: What you need to know

Affirmative action laws are laws that require the employer to make proactive efforts to represent individuals from certain protected classes in the workplace that reflect their numbers in the community. Affirmative action requirements are separate and distinct from nondiscrimination laws, which prohibit discriminatory acts against protected persons but do not mandate proactive steps in their favor. This section is limited to a discussion of affirmative action requirements.
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The Tennessee Fair Employment Practices (FEP) Law does not require private employers to have an affirmative action plan (AAP), but it does permit such plans. The FEP law specifically permits employers to adopt and carry out a plan to fill vacancies or hire new employees in order to eliminate or reduce imbalances with respect to race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin, so long as the plan has been filed with the Human Rights Commission, and the commission has not disapproved the plan (TN Stat. Sec. 4-21-406). The state also has a separate disability law that prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of mental or physical disability unless the impairment prevents the applicant from performing the duties required by the employment sought or impairs the performance of the work involved. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against an applicant or employee who uses a guide dog (TN Stat. Sec. 8-50-103). The FEP and state disability law apply to the state, or any political or civil subdivision acting as an employer, and private employers with eight or more employees within the state (TN Stat. Sec. 8-50-103).

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