Complaint Calls Tenn. Firm’s Workers’ Comp Waiver Form Illegal

April 12, 2007

Acting on a complaint by Tennessee labor officials, a judge temporarily blocked Covenant Transport Inc. from having employees sign a fake form that purports to waive their workers’ compensation benefits.

A chancery judge ordered Covenant, described on its Web site as a publicly traded, “faith-based,” trucking company, to stop using or distributing to employees the form.

The order directs the Chattanooga-based company to stop using the form entitled “notice of waiver by employee for benefits provided by the Tennessee workers’ compensation law.”

Chancery Judge Frank Brown’s temporary order, signed last week, also enjoins the company from violating the state workers’ compensation law. Records show Brown set an April 24 hearing.

David Parker, Covenant’s chairman and chief executive, could not be reached for comment. Attorneys for the company did not return a telephone message seeking comment.

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development spokeswoman Milissa Reierson referred questions about the complaint to the state attorney general’s office.

“Under Tennessee law, there are no general waivers permissable,” Reierson said. “The attorney general is handling this for us and we are working with them.”

Tennessee attorney general spokeswoman Sharon Curtis-Flair said she could not comment on pending litigation.

The workers’ compensation law requires employers to “pay and accept compensation for personal injury or death by accident arising out of and in the course of employment without regard to fault as a cause of the injury or death,” the complaint shows.

The complaint says the trucking company refused to stop using or distributing the waiver to its employees and described it as “purposely misleading and unlawfully designed to circumvent the workers’ compensation law.”

The civil complaint contends that on or about June 30, 2006, a state labor official learned that Covenant executives had presented to an employee a form waiving workers’ compensation benefits. The form was purported to be issued by the Tennessee Department of Labor/Division of Workers’ Compensation.

A state investigation showed other Covenant employees were also either presented with, or signed, the waiver form created by Covenant, the complaint shows.

The company’s Web site shows it has 5,100 drivers and associates.

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