By Erin Faraone Erin FARAONE/UNTIL NOW, HR law was the law of the land.
That’s when employers could not fire a coworker based on race, gender, religion, disability, age or national origin, and when a coworking space had to offer accommodations for employees.
Today, HR laws are far more complex, with many states enacting laws on their own, and many are expanding them.
In fact, Tennessee has one of the most expansive HR laws in the country, according to a recent survey from the Tennessee Human Resources Association.
In 2014, the Tennessee HRAA had about 1,500 members, a membership that includes nearly all of the state’s private employers and nearly all the state employers with over 5,000 employees.
That’s more than the population of Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle combined.
The state has also seen some dramatic changes in recent years, including a dramatic reduction in the number of workers hired through temporary contracts, and the introduction of a temporary work visa system, which was supposed to help to ease the burden on the workforce and boost business.
But in the end, the Tennesseans are still going to be judged by how they treat their workers, said Erin Farson-Smith, director of human resources at the Tennessee State Chamber of Commerce.
As employers, we are trying to help them understand that the work they are doing in the workplace is important to the business, and they are also trying to understand how to protect their employees, she said.
That includes providing access to training and training related to employee rights, and making sure that their employees are treated with respect and dignity, Farson Smith said.
Employers have a right to offer their employees fair and equitable treatment and the right to be protected from discrimination, said Chris Sargent, executive director of the Tennessee Chamber of Business.
It is important that we give employees the same rights that they have when they work for the company,” he said.
But some employers say the HR laws have hurt their bottom line, especially in the wake of the opioid crisis.
The opioid epidemic has hurt the economy and business in Tennessee, according the Tennessee Economic Development Council, which estimates the economic impact to be $2.7 billion.
In 2018, the state reported $1.8 billion in job losses, according data from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Research Division.
The unemployment rate increased to 6.7 percent.
The number of Tennessean employees with disabilities is also on the rise, with a total of 12,000, according a report released in April.
That number is expected to grow as more people with disabilities enter the workforce.
The U.S. Census Bureau says about 10 percent of Americans with disabilities live in Tennessee.
Employees can ask for more protections from discrimination in the future, but it will depend on the employer, said Sargen.
If a company doesn’t have an HR law, they can still ask for it.
The HR law will come down as the employer sees fit, he said, and it may be that the company will have to consider hiring new employees with disability protections.
In the meantime, employers are also making adjustments in their practices, said Tom Fennell, senior vice president of human resource at Tennessee State University.
They are trying out more inclusive practices and hiring more people who are not only good with people, but good with their eyes and ears.
They’re doing that through their own processes and through the people who work for them.
Sargent said some employers may not want to be seen to discriminate, but if an employer has an HR statute, then they have a legal obligation to make that workplace safer, he added.
In Tennessee, there is also an affirmative action policy.
The state prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, religion or national or ethnic origin in hiring, promotion, pay, promotion consideration or other terms of employment.
The policy includes requiring all employees who are qualified, as determined by an affirmative act, to receive a promotion to a higher level or pay greater compensation, unless the discrimination is based on merit, said Fennel.
In 2016, the HRAA held a meeting with state and local governments to discuss the state HR laws, which Fennill said were not always clear.
The HRAA was hoping that legislators would take action, and that this meeting would provide some guidance.
The Tennessee HR Association is an independent organization with more than 3,000 members, and is a voice for the state of Tennessee in advancing HR laws and policies that are in the best interest of all Tennesseas citizens, Fennella said.