Almost all injured employees, including those who work part-time, can receive benefits with the help of a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer
Occasionally, when an injured worker reports an injury, the employer responds, “Workers’ compensation doesn’t cover part-time employees.” Employers that want to avoid insurance claims have an incentive to misrepresent the scope of California workers’ compensation coverage. A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney can help employees understand their rights to compensation for work-related injuries.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage in California
California law requires employers to provide workers’ compensation benefits to all employees who are injured at work. Workers’ compensation was formally referred to as workman’s compensation, but the same coverage applies to both “workmen” and “workwomen.” Benefits are available to workers who are young or old, blue collar or white collar, and those who are legally or illegally employed.
Generally, the only “workers” who are not be covered by the workers’ compensation system are:
- sole proprietors who have no employees;
- the employer’s spouse, parent, or child;
- certain volunteers who work for certain kinds of employers without compensation;
- in some cases, directors and officers of a corporation who are the only owners of that corporation; and
- independent contractors.
Relatives of an employer, other than the employer’s spouse, parent, or child, are entitled to California workers’ compensation benefits. Most domestic helpers are also covered by California’s workers’ compensation law.
Part-Time and Seasonal Employees Are Covered
It does not matter how many hours a week, or how often, an employee works. Part-time and seasonal employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Even apprentices are covered by workers’ compensation.
When an employee notifies an employer of a work-related injury and the employer insists that the employee is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, the employee should seek legal advice. A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can determine whether the employee is entitled to benefits.
Independent Contractors Should Ask for Legal Advice
A worker who is truly an independent contractor is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, California law presumes that someone who is working for an employer is an employee. The fact that the employer classifies the worker as an independent contractor does not necessarily mean that the worker does not qualify as an employee under California law. The employer must prove that the worker is actually an independent contractor, not an employee.
The test to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor examines a number of factors, including the degree of control that the employer exercises over the work performance. When a worker is told exactly how to do the job, is closely supervised, performs the work at a location designated by the employer, and works on a schedule that the employer establishes, a court may decide that the worker is an employee, even if the employer has designated the worker as an independent contractor.
Workers who are injured while working and who are denied workers’ compensation benefits because the employer or the employer’s insurance company considers them to be independent contractors should seek legal advice. A workers’ compensation attorney in Santa Rosa can help the worker determine whether or not he or she is entitled to benefits.
Failure to Cover
Employers usually satisfy their obligation to provide workers’ compensation benefits to injured employees by purchasing workers’ compensation insurance. With state approval, large wealthy employers may self-insure, and smaller employers may enter into a group self-insurance plan. In all cases, it is the employer’s obligation to make certain that employees will receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured at work.
It is a crime in California for an employer to fail to cover employees, either by purchasing workers’ compensation insurance or by setting up a self-insurance plan that the state approves. In addition to imposing a criminal punishment upon an employer who fails to obtain coverage, the state can assess civil penalties of up to $100,000 against employers who do not insure their employees for work-related injuries.
Failing to buy workers’ compensation insurance does not relieve the employer of providing required benefits to injured employees. In addition to facing civil and criminal penalties, the employer is still required to pay the employee’s medical bills and provide the other benefits that California law requires.
In addition, while employees cannot usually sue an employer for work-related injuries, that protection against lawsuits may be lost if the employer is illegally uninsured. That means that under certain circumstances an employee is not limited to workers’ compensation remedies, but may also be able to seek damages in a civil suit against her employer.
Employees who are uncertain whether they are covered for work-related injuries, and employees who made a claim for benefits that was denied, should seek the assistance of an experienced Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer. The law firm of Kneisler & Schondel has years of experience helping injured workers obtain the compensation to which they are entitled. To ask us about your case, call (707) 542-5132 or contact us through our online contact form.