Bartlett postpones vote to cut workers’ compensation benefits

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BARTLETT, Tenn. -- Bartlett city employees are upset they could be stripped of their pay if they are hurt on the job.

Tuesday, the Board of Alderman and Mayor Keith McDonald discussed the rising premium costs and high number of claims forcing them to make changes.

Hundreds of workers and their families spoke at the meeting begging the city to find another way.

The mayor pushed back the vote for a month. Workers at the meeting called it a "small victory."

One family in the audience was the Pilants.

"He was fighting a fire, and the fire got too hot," said Brenda Pilant.

Her son Jensen Pilant, a Bartlett firefighter for more than a decade, was severely burned saving a family in 2012.

"And his wife just had a baby. If he had lost part of his salary, and his wife had the baby, it would have affected them a whole lot," she said.

Right now, if a worker is injured on the job, the city continues to pay their salary for a week. After that, workers' compensation benefits kick in.

If someone were out a year and made $50,000, insurance would pay two-thirds of their salary, which is about $33,000, with the city covering the difference.

But Mayor McDonald said the number of claims is rising, and premiums are skyrocketing.

The insurance company is recommending the city stop paying the difference before they wind up in a financial mess.

"I'm now calling that the nuclear option, because it's created a firestorm," he said.

It has Mayor McDonald reconsidering. He told WREG he will meet with department heads, establish safety committees and implement other strategies.

If not as many people get hurt in the coming months, the city won't have to make any changes.

"Now that it is out there and talked about, I believe our employees will do a better job avoiding those accidents," said Mayor McDonald.

"I don't think fire and police officers. They do it, because they love what they do. They don't do it to get out of something," said Brenda Pilant.

Mayor McDonald said he will keep an eye on the number of claims for the next month, but already this month, there have been six people injured costing the city $29,000 in claims.


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