Search form

Job Applicant Cannot Sue for Failure to Hire under Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act

  • August 26, 2015

Ruling on a question of law from a federal district court, the Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that a job applicant has no cause of action against a prospective employer in Tennessee if the prospective employer failed to hire the job applicant because the applicant had filed, or is likely to file, a workers’ compensation claim against a previous employer. Yardley v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC, No. M2014-01723-SC-R23-CV (Aug. 21, 2015).


Kighwaunda Yardley began working as a housekeeping aide at the University Medical Center in Lebanon in 1998. In 2010, she was injured on the job and began receiving workers’ compensation benefits; she performed light-duty work at the hospital, planning to return to her housekeeping position when her doctor released her to full-duty work.

In 2012, while Yardley was still on light duty and not working in the housekeeping department, the University Medical Center contracted with Hospital Housekeeping Systems to perform the hospital’s cleaning services. Hospital Housekeeping agreed to interview the hospital’s housekeeping employees with the option of hiring any of the employees to continue in their positions. Yardley was not interviewed or hired by Hospital Housekeeping.

In August 2012, when Yardley was released for full-duty work, she applied for work with Hospital Housekeeping. However, she was not hired, in part because she had previously filed a workers’ compensation claim while employed by the hospital.

Yardley sued Hospital Housekeeping in federal district court, claiming the failure to hire her because of her previous workers’ compensation claim amounted to a retaliatory failure to hire, cognizable under the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act, among other claims. She admitted that this cause of action had not been recognized in Tennessee.

The federal district court asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to consider whether there should be a cause of action for retaliatory failure to hire in Tennessee.

No Cause of Action

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court declined to recognize a cause of action for retaliatory failure to hire under Tennessee’s workers’ compensation laws, public policy, or Tennessee common law. While some states allow this type of lawsuit, the Court explained, Tennessee is an employment-at-will state and the legislature has not created this cause of action. It was unwilling to judicially craft an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine.

The Court disagreed with the argument that an employer’s failure to hire a job applicant on the basis of workers’ compensation claim previously filed is like a retaliatory discharge. Retaliatory discharge is a recognized cause of action in Tennessee.

While an at-will employee may not be fired for “taking an action encouraged by public policy,” such as filing a workers’ compensation claim, it said, there is a fundamental difference between discharging an employee and refusing to hire a job applicant. The Court pointed out that the basis of liability under the workers’ compensation laws is the employer-employee relationship, but Yardley’s relationship to Hospital Housekeeping was merely that of job applicant. Under Tennessee’s workers’ compensation laws, Yardley has no cause of action against Hospital Housekeeping.

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to answer inquiries regarding this case and other workplace laws.

©2015 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is prohibited without the express prior written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm with more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide serving clients across a wide range of practices and industries. Having built its reputation on providing premier workplace law representation to management, the firm has grown to include leading practices in the areas of government relations, healthcare and sports law. For more information, visit

See AllRelated Articles You May Like

March 20, 2019

New Jersey Prohibits Enforcement of Non-Disclosure Provisions in Settlement Agreements, Other Contracts

March 20, 2019

A sweeping amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) bars enforcement of non-disclosure provisions in settlement agreements and employment contracts, and prohibits the waiver of substantive and procedural rights under the statute. The amendment applies to all contracts and agreements entered into, renewed, modified, or... Read More

February 28, 2019

Portland, Oregon, Bars Discrimination Against Atheists, Agnostics

February 28, 2019

An amendment to the civil rights code of Portland, Oregon, extends protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations to atheists, agnostics, and other “non-believers.” Religious facilities are expressly exempt. The Portland City Code, chapter 23.01, already prohibits discrimination on the basis of... Read More

February 27, 2019

U.S. Supreme Court Holds Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f) Is Not Subject to Equitable Tolling

February 27, 2019

In a decision important to class action practice, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f), which establishes a 14-day deadline to seek permission to appeal an order granting or denying class certification, is not subject to equitable tolling. Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert, No. 17-1094 (Feb. 26, 2019... Read More

Related Practices