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By state statute, T.C.A. § 15-1-101, the General Assembly has established certain days as legal holidays in Tennessee:

January 1; the third Monday in January, “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day”; the third Monday in February, known as “Washington Day”; the last Monday in May, known as “Memorial” or “Decoration Day”; July 4; the first Monday in September, known as “Labor Day”; the second Monday in October, known as “Columbus Day”; November 11, known as “Veterans’ Day”; the fourth Thursday in November, known as “Thanksgiving Day”; December 25; and Good Friday; and when any one (1) of these days falls on Sunday then the following Monday shall be substituted; and when any of these days falls on Saturday, then the preceding Friday shall be substituted; also, all days appointed by the governor or by the president of the United States, as days of fasting or thanksgiving, and all days set apart by law for holding county, state, or national elections, throughout this state, are made legal holidays, and the period from noon to midnight of each Saturday which is not a holiday is made a half-holiday, on which holidays and half-holidays all public offices of this state may be closed and business of every character, at the option of the parties in interest of the same, may be suspended.[1]

The Tennessee Attorney General has opined that the only days that county offices are authorized to close are those listed in the statute.[2]  Closing county offices on days other than legal holidays can result in serious consequences. For example, in the case of Wright v. Blalock,[3] a clerk of court closed the clerk’s office on the day after Thanksgiving, which is not a legal holiday, and a litigant was unable to file a notice of appeal that was due on that date, and the court refused to extend the time for filing the notice of appeal. 

The Attorney General has opined that which of the listed legal holidays a particular county observes is to be determined under policies adopted pursuant to the County Personnel Law, codified at T.C.A. § 5-23-101 et seq.[4] The policies should state which days will be observed as holidays for each county office, what happens if a holiday falls on a weekend, and any special pay and/or time off provisions the employer may want to adopt for employees who are required to work on a holiday.

The observance of religious holidays can trigger a duty to accommodate employees who do not celebrate these occasions or who celebrate other religious holidays. Reasonable accommodations should be made when possible for those employees who observe other religious holidays. Whether reasonable accommodations can be made often depends upon the hardship created on the conduct of the employer’s business. For more on religious accommodation, see Religious Discrimination.

[1]   T.C.A. § 15-1-101.

[2]  Op. Tenn. Att’y Gen. U87-77 (July 28, 1987), U97-005 (February 6, 1997), and 98-058 (March 9, 1998).  However, county offices are not required to remain open on "half-holidays" and each elected official may decide whether to open on those days.  Op. Tenn. Att'y Gen. 81-146 (March 9, 1981).

[3]  1986 WL 5033 (Tenn. Ct. App. April 30, 1986).

[4]  Op. Tenn. Atty’ Gen. 98-058 (March 9, 1998).