It was actually pretty easy to miss, I’m sure. Back on April 7, 2022, the state legislature passed HB2733. Governor Bill Lee signed it into law just a short time later on April 20. What this new law does is require Tennessee businesses of ALL sizes to allow employees who are veterans to take November 11 (Veterans Day) off work.
What You Need To Know as a Business Owner
For the business owner, this one is really simple. If an employee is a veteran of the US armed forces and they ask for Veterans Day off, you must give it to them. There are certain requirements and exemptions, though.
All Tennessee businesses with one or more employees are covered by this law. That means that pretty much every business that has more than just the owners working as employees is subject to this law.
“Veterans” in this context include all US armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard) AND current or former members of the armed forces reserve or a Tennessee National Guard unit that was called into active military service.
While you must grant the holiday to the veteran employees, it does NOT have to be a paid holiday.
If the veteran employee’s absence (or more than one absence if you have more than one veteran employee) would cause public safety or health hazards, or would cause the business “significant economic or operational disruption” then the employer does not have to grant the holiday.
The Employee’s Responsibility
First things first…the employee has to be a veteran…and be able to prove it. That means they must be able to produce a DD 214 form or comparable certification that they served and been discharged from the armed forces.
Also, and this is important…they have to provide the employer with at least one-month’s written notice that they want to have Veterans Day off as a holiday covered under the new law. At the time of this writing, that date has already passed. If an employee gives you notice now, you do not have to grant the holiday…but good on you if you do!
Keep Things Up To Date
You know that employee handbook I keep mentioning? I should also mention that the employee handbook should never be considered “one and done.” Laws change annually so you need to be agile enough to make changes to the employee handbook to keep up with them.
In this case, you need to update your holiday policy to reflect that veterans can request Veterans Day off as an unpaid holiday, but must do so on or before October 11 of that year. Don’t forget to add the disclaimers about exemptions to the language in the employee handbook…you don’t want anyone to think that just because they ask for it, they get it, regardless of what it may do to the company.
Also consider having a written policy about what kind of framework determines whether a leave request causes significant economic disruption or operational problems for the company. I’ve also mentioned before that you need to be consistent in the way you apply company policies and the best way to do that is to have it written down and available for all employees.