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Which industries are covered by workers’ comp in Tennessee?

With few industry exceptions, any employer operating in Tennessee with five or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Included in this number are any corporate officers and any of their employed family members, regardless of whether those corporate officers seek insurance coverage for themselves.

In other words, if a corporate officer hires a sibling and three other workers but declines workers’ compensation coverage personally, the company will still have the five employees that make insurance coverage necessary for all other workers.

The general rule exceptions relate to domestic employment, farm labor, state and local government work, construction and coal mining. For the first three industries, workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees is optional, but an employer may still choose to have a policy. If any employer in these industries chooses not to have insurance coverage, the company itself may be held liable in the event of a workplace injury.

Any coal mining employer with one or more employees must have workers’ compensation coverage with no exceptions. In construction, with the exception of sole proprietors or partners with no employees, all employers with one or more employees must also have insurance coverage. For sole proprietors or partners, there is the option of filing Form I-4 with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development in order to gain coverage.

Each situation is different and could be better addressed by a legal professional, but if someone suffers an injury while working for an exempt employer, such as a small grocer with two employees and the owner, the employee could check to see if his or her employer chose to have a workers’ compensation insurance policy.

If not, the employee could seek to hold the employer accountable for any resulting medical expenses. The employee would not be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits, but legal assistance may be available to help file a civil claim. Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer for more information. 

Source: Department of Labor and Workforce Development, “Department of Labor and Workforce Development Burns Phillips, Commissioner Frequently Asked Questions – Workers’ Compensation,” July 28, 2014

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