The Tennessee Pledge and How It Works by Gloria D. Crawford

Our Lawyers Explain “The Pledge”

Starting today, in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties, businesses can and will begin re-opening in adherence with the state government’s Tennessee Pledge (“the Pledge”).* The Pledge includes CDC-based guidelines and new state protocols. It aims to provide methods for businesses to safely re-open up to the public during the pandemic. The Pledge also applies to essential businesses that remained open during the Safer-at-Home Order. The Pledge’s purpose for employers and employees is “. . . to reopen safely, help other industries be able to open more quickly, and help Tennessee remain healthy and open for business.” The Pledge is broken into four parts: employers, employees, restaurants, and business process adaptions.



All employers must screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms by asking questions such as whether the employee: has been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19; has experienced a fever within the last 48 hours prior to appearing at the workplace; recently lost their sense of taste or smell. Additionally employers need to have a temperature reading of the employee. This may be done in two ways: taking an employee’s temperature on site, permitted that they use a no-touch thermometer when the employee arrives to the workplace, or the employee takes its temperature before work. Employees that exhibit symptoms should be directed to leave the premises.

With regard to the actual workplace, employers should follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. This should be done at least every two hours. They should also “allow employees to work from home as much a possible.” In the alternative that employees must come into the office, they should modify schedules and implement social distancing guidelines. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and above all else, plan for the potential that their employees may be impacted by COVID-19 cases.


Employees  should follow the following protocol to keep themselves, their coworkers, and their physical workspace safe: wear a cloth face covering while at work and in public, stay home if you feel sick or have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, wash hands more frequently and refrain from touching your face, practice social distancing – the further the better, and follow your employers guidelines and any additional industry-specific guidelines issued by the CDC and any federal or regulatory requirements.


Restaurants must adhere to CDC guidelines. However the Pledge recommends additional protections for employees and customers.

Recommended Additional Employee Protections

Employees should wear gloves and masks at all times; report any COVID-19 symptoms or positive tests in their households; and provide ServSafe training for all food handlers as soon as possible.

Recommended Additional Consumer Protections

Restaurants should limit the seating to fifty percent (50%) of capacity, and space tables at least six feet apart. Mark waiting areas so that appropriate social distancing standards are maintained. Cap the number of guests to no more than six guests per table. Screen customers upon entry including: temperature checks, and asking questions about whether the customer has experienced coughing, fever, or shortness of breath. Bar areas should remain closed and live music prohibited.


In addition to following the aforementioned protocols, restaurants are encouraged to adapt the following sanitization guidelines: sanitizing all door handles, screens, phones, pens, keyboards at minimum every two hours, sanitize all tabletop items (including condiments), chairs, and menus after each table turns. Place hand sanitizer in the lobby, bathroom, and at cashier stations. Silverware should be rolled in a sanitized area, with employees wearing gloves, and stored in sealed bins.

On Wednesday, April 29, retail establishments can begin to reopen, following similar guidelines which will be set forth later this week. For complete information please visit The Pledge website.

* The largest counties that contain Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville will set their own reopening timelines as they work alongside their individual public health departments.

Post authored by: Gloria D. Crawford