State News : Tennessee

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April 2021

Tennessee Enacts Limited COVID-19 Presumption for Emergency Rescue Workers

Effective April 13, 2021, Tennessee enacted a limited presumption for emergency rescue workers, which provides that an emergency rescue worker who suffers a condition or impairment that is caused by an infectious disease is presumed to have a disability suffered in the line of duty, unless the contrary is shown by a preponderance of the evidence. However, there are several conditions for this presumption to apply:

1.       The “infectious disease” must be either the human immunodeficiency virus, the Hepatitis C virus, or one that has been recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) or U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and for which the Tennessee governor has declared a state of emergency.

2.       For purposes of this presumption, the term “emergency rescue worker” is defined as a person employed full-time by the state or any political subdivision of the state, as a firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician or emergency medical technician advanced. This does not include any person employed by a public hospital or by a subsidiary of a public hospital.

3.       The emergency rescue worker must verify by written declaration that the worker has not engaged in certain types of high-risk activities, such as blood transfusions, unsafe sexual practices, intravenous drug use, or non-work exposure through bodily fluids to a person known to have an infectious disease.

4.       The emergency rescue worker must, prior to diagnosis, have tested negative on medically accepted tests for the infectious disease for which the presumption is sought.

5.       For emergency rescue workers hired on or after July 1, 2015, the worker may be required to undergo a preemployment physical examination which includes a negative test for any evidence of infectious disease.

6.       The emergency rescue worker may be required to take a medically recognized vaccine or other form of immunization, unless the worker’s physician determines in writing that it would pose a significant risk to the worker’s health.

7.       The emergency rescue worker must file with the employer an incident or accident report of each instance of known or suspected occupational exposure for infectious disease within 7 days of the incident or accident occurring.

8.       The presumption shall apply to any emergency rescue worker following termination of service for a period of 1 year from the last date of service.

For any questions, please contact:

Fredrick R. Baker, Member
Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones, PLLC
1420 Neal Street, Suite 201
P.O. Box 655
Cookeville, TN 38503-0655
Phone: 931-372-9123
Fax: 931-372-9181