A bill to allow Tennessee employers to voluntarily opt-out of the state’s workers’ compensation system appears to have been derailed, at least for this year.
Tennessee had been flirting with joining Texas and Oklahoma and allowing employers to opt-out of the workers’ compensation program in favor of providing their own workplace injury plans. South Carolina’s legislature is considering a similar workers’ comp opt-out bill.
The proposal is highly-controversial. Critics say that employer’s workplace injury plans will be less comprehensive and generous than workers’ comp benefits as they are subject to less regulation, while proponents claim that a voluntary opt-out is more efficient and provides better outcomes for injured employees.
The debate will continue, but probably not in Tennessee this year. Recently, the bill’s embattled sponsor, Jeremy Durham of Franklin, took the measure off notice, meaning that, although the bill is not formally withdrawn, it is unlikely to pass or be seriously debated this year. Rep. Durham is facing allegations of sexual harassment and recently resigned from the House GOP Caucus, and his embattled-status perhaps contributed to the measure not proceeding forward.
For now, Tennessee appears to be opting-out of the opt-out for 2016, but that may change come 2017.