What happens when a member of your staff is injured on the job? Your state will determine the specifics, but keep in mind that American labor laws provide a slew of benefits for employees. As a business owner, you should make every effort to maintain a safe environment, but you should also fully understand the policies in your home state.
The U.S. Workers’ Compensation Program
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance plan that replaces wages and provides medical benefits when an employee suffers an injury or becomes disabled while on your clock. In return, you as the employer are protected from being sued for negligent behavior. The program, also called workman’s compensation, is governed at the state level and is required by law.
Nearly every type of employee has the right to workers’ comp insurance benefits. However, federal employees fall under a separate program. They may or may not be affected by state jurisdiction. If you’re a small business owner with fewer than five employees on your payroll, it’s also possible that your state won’t enforce policies upon your company.
Who’s Not Covered
Many states exclude the following workers from insurance benefits.
- Independent contractors
- Private residence employees
- Ranch hands
- Ship captains and crew members
- Railroad workers
Who’s at Fault
Employees receive benefits regardless of who is to blame. Workers’ comp covers a wide range of situations and injuries, so be sure to consult your state laws. You may even be allowed to conduct a drug or alcohol test if you suspect that your employee was injured while under the influence. Depending on the situation, the claim may be denied. Likewise, you’ll probably thwart a claim if your worker committed a crime that caused the injury.
On the flip side, your employee can also file suit against anything you do that is considered to be reckless or intentionally harmful to anyone at your site. If this happens, however, he or she automatically waives the right to any benefit claims. If the courts rule against you, you may still be required to pay replacement wages as well as medical expenses and punitive damages.
Workers’ compensation programs cover medical care, retraining costs, lost wages, payment for permanent injuries and survivor assistance in cases of fatality. Furthermore, benefits extend beyond just single incidences. Any long-term job-related illness is also covered. This is why office-based companies are so strict about ergonomic training. If you manage a stationary staff, make it a point to encourage frequent breaks during the day.
In terms of wage replacement, the benefit is fixed and won’t exceed a certain amount. This number varies by state, but you can expect to pay around two-thirds of your average staff salary. As long as you pay fair wages, all benefits are tax free.
What’s Not Covered
The following situations are typically excluded from workman’s comp benefits.
- An injury that happens because an employee is under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs
- An injury that happens when an employee is committing a crime
- An injury off the job
- An injury that happens when an employee is violating a company policyNo state allows workers to claim compensation for pain or suffering. These two benefits are only available to an employee through a separate lawsuit. Your state may or may not have exceptions.
If you find yourself facing a workman’s comp claim, be sure to double-check the laws in your state. Above all, avoid becoming defensive. If you retaliate against any staff member who files for benefits, that employee is legally obligated to report you. With that said, don’t lose sleep over work-comp anxiety. Labor laws serve to protect Americans who earn a living. Your job is to make every effort to operate a safe environment.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.