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Tennessee Right to Work Laws

Many states, including Tennessee, have so-called right to work laws that prohibit the use of union membership status as a condition for getting or keeping a job. Employees in states without right to work laws are generally required to join the union if their workplace is part of a collective bargaining agreement, but still have the option of opting out. Tennessee's right to work law is fairly straightforward, summarized in the following statutory language:

"It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association of any kind to deny or attempt to deny employment to any person by reason of the person's membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization of any kind."

Below is a basic summary of Tennessee law with respect to union membership. See FindLaw's Wages and Benefits section for related articles.

More Information on Right-to-Work Laws

Code Section 50-1-201, et seq.
Policy on Union Membership, Organization, etc. It is unlawful to deny employment because of affiliation or nonaffiliation with a labor union.
Prohibited Activity Contracts for exclusion from employment because of affiliation or nonaffiliation with labor union; exclusion from employment for payment or failure to pay union dues.
Penalties Class A misdemeanor; imprisoned for not greater than 11 months and 29 days or fine not to exceed $2,500 or both. (40-35-111)

Note: State laws are constantly changing. Although we make every effort to keep our state laws section up-to-date, you may want to contact a Tennessee labor attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Right to Work Laws: A Heated Debate

Quite a few states have passed right to work laws, but not without intense pushback. For the most part, unionized workforces in Tennessee and similarly situated states must extend the same compensation and even offer union representation to non-union employees. Critics say this is unfair because it allows employees to benefit from unions without paying into its operating costs. On the other hand, proponents of these laws say it is unconscionable to "force" an employee or prospective employee to join a union against their will.

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Tennessee Right to Work Laws: Related Resources

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