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Tennessee: No Cause of Action for Retaliatory Failure to Hire

August 28, 2015 (2 min read)

Answering a question of law certified by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, the state’s Supreme Court held that a job applicant does not have a cause of action under the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act against a prospective employer for failure to hire if the prospective employer failed to hire the job applicant because that applicant had filed, or is likely to file, a workers’ compensation claim against a previous employer. A hospital housekeeper sustained a work-related injury and began to receive workers’ compensation benefits. She was placed on light duty work and expected to return to her housekeeping job when she fully recovered. In the meantime, the hospital entered into a contract with a company whereby the company agreed to provide housekeeping services for the hospital beginning July 1, 2012. As part of the contract, the company agreed to interview the hospital’s housekeeping staff. The company undertook the housekeeping services on July 1, 2012, but had not interviewed the housekeeper since she was still on light duty. She subsequently was released to return to full duty, but she alleged she was not hired and that a company executive told her the company would not be hiring anyone who had received workers’ compensation benefits. One company email also allowed that hiring the housekeeper “would seem to be a Workers Comp claim waiting to happen.” When the housekeeper was not hired, she filed a retaliatory discharge claim in federal court. The district court certified the question to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Observing that the case was one of first impression, the Court said there was no statutory or common law cause of action for retaliatory failure to hire. The Court added that workers’ compensation laws interacted with the state’s employment laws and that Tennessee recognizes the employment-at-will doctrine as the fundamental principle controlling the relationship between employers and employees. The Court declined to create an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine for prospective hires.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is the co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to

See Yardley v. Hospital Housekeeping Sys., LLC, 2015 Tenn. LEXIS 630 (Aug. 21, 2015) [2015 Tenn. LEXIS 630 (Aug. 21, 2015)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 104.07 [104.07]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.