Thanks to the hard lobbying efforts by the Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association (TPFFA), Governor Bill Lee signed legislation into law (effective April 13) that provides workers’ compensation to fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs who contract pandemic-related viruses or diseases.
“Even as this bill received pushback from some municipalities, our Tennessee leaders never stopped fighting. And when we fight, we win,” says General President Edward Kelly. “Congratulations to TPFFA President Eddie Mitchell and his members on this important victory.”
“Because of the passage of this bill, our members in Tennessee won’t be left wondering if they will be protected if they get sick during this pandemic or others in the future,” says 14th District Vice President Danny Todd. “Great work by the Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association.”
The new law amends Section C of the existing infectious disease presumption law, which already provides workers’ compensation coverage to fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs if they contract HIV or Hepatitis C on the job. The new law adds viruses or other communicable diseases for which a pandemic has been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and for which the governor has declared a state of emergency.
Mitchell says some municipalities did the right thing for TPFFA members exposed to the virus, while others demanded that fire fighters take personal sick leave for quarantines. The TPFFA stepped in and advocated for this new law.
“In the case of a pandemic, workers’ compensation coverage for our members should not be a question mark. The TPFFA made it its mission to add pandemic-related viruses and disease to the existing infectious disease presumption law and, despite some pushback, we got it done,” says TPFFA President Mitchell, who credited lobbyist Lindsay Spain for helping push the legislation over the finish line.
The presumption is rebuttable, but the burden is on the municipality to prove that the virus or disease was contracted off the job.