A worker who is not permanently disabled may still need assistance when an injury or illness prevents him or her from working for weeks at a time. When an employee needs to take a break longer than his or her allotted sick leave but shorter than the time required for long-term disability, short-term disability coverage is often needed. In Tennessee, the employer may be legally obligated to provide this coverage or it may be up to the employee, depending on the circumstances.
Only five states in the United States require employers to provide short-term disability coverage in the form of continued salary to temporarily disabled employees. Tennessee is not among these five. However, residents of Tennessee are protected under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows an employee to leave a job for up to 12 weeks for personal injury/illness or to care for a family member. Employers are not required to compensate employees during this time but must allow an employee to return to work after this period with the same benefits, wages and seniority as when he or she left. Additionally, the state of Tennessee requires employers to offer at least four months of short-term disability benefits for maternity leave. (See References 1)
Despite the fact that employer-provided short-term disability coverage is not by required by law in Tennessee, worker's compensation is required in the state, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workplace Development. If an employee is injured or becomes ill directly as a result of work, then the employer must provide insurance that compensates that employee for lost wages and medical costs. Thus, for those temporarily disabled on the job, short-term disability coverage is available in the form of worker's compensation in Tennessee. There are exceptions to this, however, and employers with fewer than five employees are exempt. State and local governments are also exempt from worker's compensation requirements in the state. (See References 2)
Any employee in the state may purchase short-term disability insurance on his or her own in order to ensure this kind of coverage in the event of illness or injury outside of the workplace. Typically, the insured must be employed at least 20 hours a week in order to receive coverage. This insurance generally covers a portion of lost wages and medical rehabilitation, and coverage may last for up to 26 weeks or more, depending on the policy. (See References 3)