Below is a brief Question and Answer about California’s current worker’s compensation insurance requirements for employers.
Q. Who is required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance?
A: All California employers must provide workers’ compensation benefits to their employees under California Labor Code Section 3700. If a business employs one or more employees, then it must satisfy the requirement of the law.
Sometimes a business owner (sole proprietor) may desire to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover himself/herself only. The inclusion of a sole proprietor must be clearly stated in the workers’ compensation policy or must be added as a coverage endorsement to the policy. Since workers’ compensation insurance is a type of liability insurance where the employer assumes complete liability for all worker injuries, a workers’ compensation policy for a sole proprietor may not be the best choice.
Purchasing health, life, and/or disability income insurance can be a viable option to workers’ compensation for a sole proprietor. Contact a licensed commercial broker-agent or a casualty broker-agent for further information and consultation.
Executive officers and directors of corporations must be included in workers’ compensation coverage, unless the corporation is fully owned by the directors and officers. If the directors and officers fully own the corporation, then they may elect to be excluded from workers’ compensation benefits. Fully owned corporations may want to discuss the option to include or exclude their officers and directors with a licensed commercial broker-agent.
California Labor Code Section 3351 defines who is an employee, and therefore who can be covered under a workers’ compensation policy. Whether a business is a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation, it is beneficial to develop a working relationship with a reliable, competent broker-agent who can explain coverage eligibility issues and present options based on the organization model of a business.
Q: What are my posting requirements?
A: You must post the “notice to employees” poster in a conspicuous place at the work site. This poster provides employees with information on your workers’ compensation coverage and where to get medical care for work injuries. Specific requirements are contained in sections 3550-3553 of the California Labor Code. Failure to post this notice is a misdemeanor that can result in a civil penalty of up to $7,000 per violation. Contact your insurer to get the posting notice and the required information that must be included on it.
You must also provide newly hired employees with a workers’ compensation pamphlet explaining their rights and responsibilities.
Q: What happens if I’m uninsured and an employee is injured?
A: Failing to have workers’ compensation coverage is a criminal offense. Section 3700.5 of the California Labor Code makes it a misdemeanor punishable by either a fine of not less than $10,000 or imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or both. Additionally, the state issues penalties of up to $100,000 against illegally uninsured employers.
If an employee gets hurt or sick because of work and you are not insured, you are responsible for paying all bills related to the injury or illness. Contact the information and assistance officer at your local DWC office for further information. You should be aware that workers’ compensation benefits are only the exclusive remedy for injuries suffered on the job when you are properly insured. If you are illegally uninsured and an employee gets sick or hurt because of work, that employee can file a civil action against you in addition to filing a workers’ compensation claim.
If you fail to pay required benefits you may also be contacted by the Uninsured Employers’ Benefit Trust Fund.
Q: What is the Uninsured Employers’ Benefit Trust Fund?
A: The Uninsured Employer’s Benefit Trust Fund (UEBTF) is a special unit within the Division of Workers’ Compensation that may pay benefits to injured workers who get hurt or ill while working for an illegally uninsured employer. The UEBTF pursues reimbursement of expenditures from the responsible employer through all available avenues, including filing liens against their property.
Q: Can I be fined for not carrying workers’ compensation insurance?
A: Yes, you can be fined and more. If the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (state labor commissioner) determines an employer is operating without workers’ compensation coverage, a stop order will be issued. This order prohibits the use of employee labor until coverage is obtained, and failure to observe it is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to 60 days, or by a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement will also assess a penalty the greater of (1) twice the amount the employer would have paid in workers’ compensation premiums during the period the employer was uninsured, determined according to subdivision (c), or (2) the sum of one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500) per employee employed during the period the employer was uninsured. [Labor Code section 3722(b)].
Additionally, if an injured worker files a workers’ compensation claim that goes before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and a judge finds the employer had not secured insurance as required by law, when the dispute is resolved the uninsured employer may be assessed a penalty of $10,000 per employee on the payroll at the time of injury if the worker’s case was found to be compensable, or $2,000 per employee on the payroll at the time of injury if the worker’s case was non-compensable, up to a maximum of $100,000. [Labor Code Section 3722(d) and (f).]
Finally, as noted in answer to a previous question, failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or by a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or by both that imprisonment and fine. (Labor Code Section 3700.5)
Q: How do I get proof of coverage?
A: Request a certificate of insurance from your insurance carrier.