Barry Brady Act provides compensation to firefighters for certain types of cancers

A report by UT-MTAS consultants


Melissa Ashburn & Elisha Hodge, Legal Consultants; Steven Cross & Dennis Wolf, Fire Management Consultants; and Richard Stokes, Human Resources Consultant

In collaboration with the Tennessee Fire Service Coalition, the 111th Tennessee General Assembly passed HB 316/SB 1442 on May 2, 2019. Gov. Bill Lee subsequently signed the legislation and on July 1, Public Chapter 490, Acts of 2019, became effective.

The legislation is codified in Tennessee Code Annotated (here in after “T.C.A.”) § 7-51-201(d). In collaboration with the Tennessee Fire Service Coalition, the 111th Tennessee General Assembly passed HB 316/SB 1442 on May 2, 2019. Gov. Bill Lee subsequently signed the legislation and on July 1, Public Chapter 490, Acts of 2019, became effective. The legislation is codified in Tennessee Code Annotated (here in after “T.C.A.”) § 7-51-201(d). 

The legislation, known as the “Barry Brady Act” (hereinafter “the Act”) made Tennessee the 43rd state in the U.S. to enact such legislation. The Act was named for Captain Barry Brady, a retired fire captain from the Sparta Tennessee Fire Department. Captain Brady was a dedicated fire professional who fought a courageous battle with colon cancer. Captain Brady lost his battle with cancer but never lost his passion for the fire service or for his brothers and sisters that do the job every day.

The Act unanimously passed in both the Tennessee State House of Representatives (94-0 vote) and the Tennessee State Senate (33-0 vote). The Act amends T.C.A. § 7-51-201 by adding subsection (d) which outlines specific types of cancers that are presumed to have been acquired as the result of employment in the fire service and the eligibility requirements for firefighters seeking to be covered by the presumption. This public chapter outlines specific employment, pre-employment, and annual medical monitoring that a firefighter must undergo in order to be covered by the presumption.

UT-MTAS Recommendations UT-MTAS recommends that public entities proactively approach and educate their employees about the requirements of the Act. Proactively addressing physical medical examinations and cancer screening demonstrates the value public entities place on the long-term health and safety of their employees. It is important to note that compliance with the Act is incumbent on the firefighter requesting appropriate physical medical examinations and cancer screenings, not the public entity. It is recommended that public entities:

  • Develop a policy that outlines the process in which the entity will seek to minimize risks associated with contracting cancer due to employee lifestyle choices and workplace exposures.
  • Notify eligible employees about the Act and determine if the employee has a desire to participate in physical medical examinations and cancer screenings required by the Act.
  • Document, using a waiver form, the desire of each eligible employee to either participate in a physical medical examinations and cancer screening program or waive his/her participation in the program.

What is the Barry Brady Act?

The Act is legislation that provides that when the state of Tennessee, any municipal corporation, or other political subdivision of the state maintains a fire department that has established or establishes any form of compensation to be paid to firefighters for any condition of impairment of health that results in the loss of life or personal injury in the line of duty or course of employment, there is a presumption that any condition or impairment of health of firefighters caused by all forms of cancers covered by this statue, that results in hospitalization, medical treatment or disability, has arisen out of employment, unless the contrary is shown by competent medical evidence. Cancers covered are all forms of the following:

  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Colon cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Multiple myeloma cancer


Any such condition or impairment of health that results in death is presumed to be a loss of life in the line of duty, to have arisen out of employment, and to have been in the actual discharge of the duties of the firefighter’s position, unless the contrary is shown by a physician board certified in oncology. Secondary employment and/or lifestyle habits may be considered when determining whether a firefighter is eligible for the presumption.


Firefighter Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for the presumption, a firefighter:

  • Must be employed as a firefighter for the state of Tennessee, a municipality, or other political subdivision of the state that maintains a fire department that has established or establishes any form of compensation to be paid to a firefighter for any condition or impairment of health that results in loss of life or personal injury in the line of duty or course of employment.
  • Must have been exposed to heat, smoke, and fumes, or carcinogenic, poisonous, toxic, or chemical substances while performing the duties of a firefighter in the firefighter’s capacity as an employee;
  • Must have completed five or more consecutive years in service with an eligible fire department;
  • Must acquire one of the covered cancers.
  • If employed prior to July 1, 2019, must request to obtain a physical medical examination and cancer screenings, before July 1, 2020, that test for, and fails to reveal, any of the cancers covered by the Ac.
  • tIf employed on or after July 1, 2019, must request to obtain a pre-employment physical medical examination and cancer screenings that test for, and fails to reveal, any of the cancers covered by the Act.
  • Must obtain an annual physical medical examination that includes cancer screening for the cancers covered by this Act.

If I meet all the eligibility requirements, am I automatically covered?

No, the presumption is rebuttable. A board-certified physician of oncology may consider lifestyle habits or secondary employment when making a determination of eligibility for the presumption.


Who pays for required medical examinations and cancer screenings?

The Act provides that the employer is responsible for all costs associated with any medical examinations and cancer screenings required pursuant to the Act. The firefighter must request the physical medical exam and cancer screening tests from the employer.


How long are firefighters covered?

Firefighters that meet the eligibility requirements for the presumption are eligible for benefits for up to five years from the date of the firefighter’s last exposure to heat, smoke, and fumes, or carcinogenic, poisonous, toxic, or chemical substances, while performing the duties of a firefighter. 

Can my employer screen for additional types of cancer?

Yes, your employer may elect to screen for cancer types that are not listed in the law, and this is desirable for early detection of cancer. However, if a firefighter is diagnosed with a cancer that is not listed in the law, the cancer will not be considered as having arisen out of employment under this law.


Can my employer cover additional types of cancer?

Yes, your employer may elect to establish a presumption that covers additional types of cancers not covered by this Act, that arose out of employment. However,the inclusion of additional cancers by your employer does not impact the applicability of this Act.


What types of screening tests are available for the covered cancers?

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, 2018 edition, contains guidelines on the medical evaluation of both candidates and current members of fire departments, including screening for different types of cancer as part of both pre-employment and annual physical medical evaluations. MTAS recommends that, if desired, municipalities consult with a physician for definitive medical advice on the types of cancer screenings the municipality may elect to use.

In conclusion, firefighters provide vital public safety services to the public at large. The job brings with it many inherent hazards that can cause serious physical and emotional injuries, including death.  The Act establishes a presumption that firefighters who acquired any of the four types of cancer covered by this legislation, acquired the cancers as the result of being exposed to the some of the inherent hazards mentioned above, in the line of duty. It is important for firefighters to obtain the required physical medical examinations and cancer screenings, and make good lifestyle choices, in order to be and remain eligible for the presumption.


Additional Resources

Public Chapter 490, Acts of 2019

https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/acts/111/pub/pc0490.pdf


Sample medical history and examination form for firefighters.

MTAS has a link to a sample Medical History and Examination Form for Firefighters based on NFPA 1582 available on the MTAS Knowledgebase website at this link:

http://www.mtas.tennessee.edu/knowledgebase/nfpa-1582-standard-medical- requirements-firefighters-and-fire-department-physicians

Sample Barry Brady Act waiver form: MTAS has a link to a sample Barry Brady Act Waiver Form on the MTAS Knowledgebase website at this link:

https://www.mtas.tennessee.edu/knowledgebase/brady-act-pre-employment-physical- medical-examination