Tennessee moves to take action on workplace sexual harassment

March 2018

All sectors, recorded music, live, music publishing


Two legislators in Tennessee, Representative Brenda Gilmore and Senator Jeff Yarbro, have submitted a new bill addressing sexual harassment in the music business. The pair have co-authored proposed state legislation HB 1984/SB 2130, which seeks to address the fact that independent contractors in Tennessee (including many people working in the music business) cannot file claims against their employers over verbal sexual harassment in the workplace, no matter how many how many hours they work. 

In January, Rolling Stone Country published the findings of an extensive investigation that uncovered a climate of sexual harassment and misconduct in country radio. Now Nashville’s musical community, including Rodney Crowell, Lilly Hiatt, Andrew Combs, Katie Armiger and Lorrie Morgan, are lending their support for the proposed legislation. 

One of the many challenges in this area in the music industry is that artists are not employees of their record labels. Instead, unless they have specifically detailed as such their contract, they are classified as freelance. That means that they can only report physical harassment (where that is a crime) and not verbal harassment.


“There’s been significant reporting showing real problems with harassment in parts of the music industry, and it doesn’t fit neatly into the way the law treats harassment in a traditional workplace,” Yarbro told local press. adding “Everyone has a right to be safe in the workplace, regardless of whether their job fits the formalities of the current law.”

Senator Yarbro told Rolling Stone Country. “From what we’ve learned, if you’re a female artist, harassment is something you learn to expect as you try to promote your work. That’s unacceptable, and it’s a problem we should try to solve. We know the music industry isn’t a traditional workplace, so a lot of the ways we report harassment in traditional workplaces won’t work. The legislation that Rep. Gilmore and I have proposed just makes it clear that everyone has a right to be safe in the workplace, regardless of whether their job fits the formalities of the current law.”

Singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell said: “As the father of four daughters, two granddaughters, and as a loyal friend to many great women, I support legislation that renders sexual harassment, or any form of harassment, a punishable offense”. Grand Old Opry member Lorrie Morgan told Rolling Stone Country that this is legislation she is glad to see proposed. “I’ve seen the entertainment industry for decades and at a variety of levels, and it’s so important for artists who are out there knocking themselves out and sharing their gifts to be afforded the same protections as every other working man and woman,” she says.

HB 1984/SB 2130 reads, “it is a discriminatory practice for an employer to harass an employee, an applicant, or a person providing services pursuant to a contract because of the employee’s, applicant’s, or person’s sex.” It then defines “employer” as, among other definitions, “any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly.” That means artists, contractors and freelancers will be able to file complaints, should the bill pass. 

No date has been set, but the bill is expected to be heard in the coming weeks.



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