Not all workers injured during the course of employment are entitled to receive benefits under Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation Reform Act. Instead, an employer in Tennessee is subject to the Act only if it the company employs five or more full- or part-time employees. If the company employs five or more workers then the company is required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for its employees. The Act, however, exempts those companies employing farm laborers or domestic help. Certain employers are required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance regardless of the number of employees. What is more, some companies that employ fewer than five employees or are exempt may still voluntarily choose to be subject to the Workers’ Compensation Reform Act and elect to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for their employees.
In Tennessee, if an employer is required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance then both full- and part-time employees are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In addition, temporary workers may also be entitled to receive benefits. Conversely, independent contractors are not entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits from the company because independent contractors are not considered “employees” under the law.
Under Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation Reform Act, all medical costs must be paid by the employer and according to the Rules of Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Medical Fee Schedule. The one significant difference between how full- and part-time (or temporary) employees are treated under the Workers’ Compensation Reform Act concerns wage replacement benefits. If the injured employee is entitled to take time off work then the employee may be entitled to receive wage replacement benefits for time that the worker is absent. Temporary and permanent disability benefits, however, are determined in relation to the employee’s wages. Wage replacement benefits are defined as a percentage of a worker’s weekly wages.
For example, an employee “is entitled to 66 ⅔ percent of his/her average weekly wages in temporary total disability (TTD) benefits while taken off work by the authorized treating physician due to the workplace injury…” This means that a part-time employee who is injured at work will be entitled to less in temporary wage replacement benefits than a full-time employee in the same position. Even if the part-time and full-time employee are compensated at the same hourly rate, the full-time employee will be entitled to greater temporary wage replacement benefits because the full-time employee receives more in weekly wages.