Workers’ compensation is a system that is set up to provide medical coverage and cash benefits for workers who are injured as a result of their job. In New York, it is designed to provide an alternative to the personal injury system, where fault is largely eliminated and, for the most part, an injured worker is automatically entitled to benefits.
Q: How do I know whether I’m covered by workers’ compensation?
Any business or company that operates in New York and employs at least one person is obligated under the law to obtain workers’ comp insurance coverage, unless it qualifies as self-insured, like the city of New York, or the city transit authority.
Any business that has more than one employee is obligated to maintain coverage or they will face penalties. Any employee who is injured at such a business is likely to be entitled to receive workers’ compensation.
Q: For purposes of collecting workers’ compensation, how do I know whether I’m an employee?
Most people in New York who work for a business or company are considered employees. There are certain instances where someone could be an independent contractor, and in that case, they would be obligated to provide their own workers’ comp coverage.
The workers’ comp system takes a fact-based approach to whether someone is an employee or independent contractor. They look at a number of factors, such as the method of employment, whether the person has set hours, uses their own equipment or tools, whether they also currently work for others, and other considerations.
Even if the employment contract states that the service provider is an independent contractor, a judge will perform an independent review to determine if they are in fact an employee rather than an independent contractor.
There are exceptions that when the employer is not obligated to have workers’ compensation coverage, such as with domestic workers. For example, if a live-in housekeeper or babysitter works less than 40 hours a week, even if they are there every day, they have to maintain their own workers’ comp coverage.