The Summer of 2020 Brought Changes to Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Laws

Author: Kiley McCarthy Connolly

Guest Editor: Amy Chambers

November 2, 2020 3:00pm

Traditionally, under Tennessee workers’ compensation law, there is an exemption for out-of-state employers from being legally required to obtain workers’ compensation coverage in Tennessee for the employees who are “temporarily in Tennessee, not to exceed 14 consecutive days or 25 days total per year; provided, that the employer has coverage in the employer’s home state and such coverage applies to the employer’s employees while temporarily located in Tennessee.” [1]

In February 2020, Tennessee Senate Bill 2189 was introduced to the Senate with the aim of making the previously mentioned exemption inapplicable to construction services providers.[2] In other words, the bill would require out-of-state construction services employers to provide primary Tennessee workers’ compensation coverage for employees in the same manner as in-state employers.[3] In addition, the legislation aims to mandate construction services providers maintain workers’ compensation coverage throughout the duration of the time they work in Tennessee.[4]

SB2189 amends previous workers’ compensation law to create a supplementary enforcement mechanism which implements penalties for those construction service providers who do not obtain coverage as required by SB 2189.[5] The penalty is the greater of either $1,000.00 or 1.5 times the average yearly workers’ compensation premium for the construction services provider, based on applicable factors described in SB 2189.[6] The legislation also provides a mechanism for collecting penalties issued against violators who attempt to evade penalties when they close the original business down and open up a new business under a new name.[7]

Governor Lee signed SB2189 into law on June 15, 2020, and it became effective upon signing for penalties assessed on or after the effective date.[8]


In February 2020, Tennessee Senate Bill 2190 was introduced to the Senate with the aim of extending minimum time to qualify for and request permanent partial benefits if unable to return to work, removing unrealistic time limits from Uninsured Employers Fund court hearings, and extending deadlines for workers seeking benefits from the Uninsured Employers Fund.[9]

Previously, under Tennessee Workers’ Compensation law, if an injured worker had a low impairment rating, their increased benefit period may be reduced to four and half weeks.[10] The new legislation allows for an injured worker, who is unable to return to work, to have a minimum period of 180 days from maximum medical improvement to qualify for increased benefits.[11] In addition, the new legislation removed what some thought was an unrealistic time limit from Uninsured Employers Fund court hearings.[12] Previously, the law mandated a final hearing to be held by the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims within 60 days of the date of a request for benefits from the Uninsured Employers Fund.[13] The new legislation lengthens the period of time to 180 days following an injury.[14]

Finally, the new legislation extends the deadline for workers seeking benefits from Uninsured Employers Fund. Again, previously the deadline was 60 days from the date of injury. The new legislation lengthens the deadline to 180 days for an injured worker to seek benefits from the Bureau’s Uninsured Employers Fund and to notify the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development of the employer’s lack of workers’ compensation insurance coverage.[15]

Governor Lee signed SB2189 into law on June 22, 2020, and it became effective upon signing for penalties assessed on or after the effective date.[16]



[1] http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2189

[2] http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2189

[3] https://www.tn.gov/workforce/injuries-at-work/bwc-newsroom/2020/6/5/two-recent-wc-law-updates.html

[4] http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2189

[5] http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2189

[6] http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2189

[7] https://www.tn.gov/workforce/injuries-at-work/bwc-newsroom/2020/6/5/two-recent-wc-law-updates.html

[8] http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2189

[9] https://www.tn.gov/workforce/injuries-at-work/bwc-newsroom/2020/6/5/two-recent-wc-law-updates.html

[10] https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/workforce/documents/injuries/Legislative_Update_2020.pdf

[11] https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/workforce/documents/injuries/Legislative_Update_2020.pdf

[12] https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/workforce/documents/injuries/Legislative_Update_2020.pdf

[13] https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/workforce/documents/injuries/Legislative_Update_2020.pdf

[14] https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/workforce/documents/injuries/Legislative_Update_2020.pdf

[15] https://www.tn.gov/workforce/injuries-at-work/bwc-newsroom/2020/6/5/two-recent-wc-law-updates.html

[16] http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2190

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