Tennessee Supreme Court holds temporary employee must be treated the same as a permanent employee for workers’ compensation benefits

Recently the Tennessee Supreme Court held that an employee of a temporary agency who is injured on the job but not returned to work by the agency at a wage equal to or in excess of the pre-injury wage is entitled to benefits up to six times the medical impairment rating.  This is the same rate that a permanent employee could receive in the same circumstances.

In deciding Timmy Dale Britt v. Dyer’s Employment Agency the Supreme Court reversed the trial court which held that Mr. Britt was limited to one and one-half times the medical impairment rating, which is the rate that applies if the injured employee is returned to work at a wage equal to or in excess of the pre-injury wage.  The trial court based its holding on the fact that Mr. Britt was a temporary employee.  The Supreme Court held that the Tennessee workers’ compensation statutes do not distinguish between permanent and temporary employees.  Since Mr. Britt was never offered the opportunity to return to work the Court held the lower rate did not apply.

Governor Haslam has announced a plan to review and possibly overhaul Tennessee’s workers’ compensation system.  It will be interesting to see if this temporary employee issue will be addressed as part of that process.

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