Are Employers Required To Offer Workers’ Compensation in Pennsylvania?

Workers’ compensation is a government-enforced program that insures employees against work-related injuries and associated economic losses. It offers 100% coverage for medical expenses as well as significant (although far from total) wage replacement benefits. It even offers victims’ families death benefits for fatal accidents. 

Arguably, the workers’ compensation system actually saves employers money. It denies most injured workers access to the court system, and it limits the compensation they can seek.

Employers Who Don’t Need To Offer Workers’ Compensation

Generally, it is true that Pennsylvania employers must offer workers’ compensation benefits to their employees. Exceptions to this rule exist, however. The best way to clarify who is and is not required to offer workers’ compensation is to state the exceptions and then assume that there is an obligation to anyone not covered by an exception.  

Be careful, however–a short article like this one cannot cover every possible scenario. Ultimately, you may want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your rights and whether your employer is required to participate in the program.

Sole Proprietors

Since sole proprietors don’t have any employees, they don’t need to offer workers’ compensation benefits. As soon as they hire their first employee, however, their workers’ compensation obligations are likely to kick in. That means from the very first day of employment.

Employers of Domestic Servants

Employers of “domestic servants,” such as housekeepers, don’t have to provide workers’ compensation to their servants who work in their own homes. The situation might be different, however, if they were to open a domestic servant agency. 

Employers of Certain Temporary Agricultural Workers

Employers don’t need to offer workers’ compensation benefits to temporary agricultural workers (hired for less than 30 days of work) who will earn no more than $1,200 per year from any single employer.

Employees Covered by Alternative Programs

Railroad workers, longshoremen, federal employees, and certain other employees enjoy their own programs offering benefits that are similar to workers’ compensation benefits. Because these employees already enjoy coverage, they don’t need workers’ compensation.

Employees Who Request Certain Exemptions

An employee can opt out of workers’ compensation on their own initiative if they do so for religious or certain other reasons. This is not a particularly common occurrence. 

Employers Who Self-Insure

This isn’t really an exemption, but it does work like one in some ways. An employer can bypass the workers’ compensation system and insure their employees use their own resources if they receive permission from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

In reality, these employers are still offering workers’ compensation—it’s just that they are acting as the insurance company themselves.

Employers of Employees Who Are Not Working in Their Regular Course of Business

A chiropractor who hires a full-time gardener, for example, doesn’t need to offer workers’ compensation to that worker. If, on the other hand, the employer hires 10 gardeners, workers’ compensation might be required.

“Employers” of Independent Contractors

Hiring a plumber to fix your clogged drain is not hiring an employee—it’s hiring an independent contractor. Indeed, the plumber might even be an employee of a plumbing company. In any case, you don’t have to provide workers’ compensation benefits to independent contractors you hire. 

Be careful, though. There is no ironclad rule on who is and is not an independent contractor–it’s a judgment call.

Beware of False Confidence From Employers

Many employers consider themselves exempt from the obligation to offer workers’ compensation benefits when they are not. A simple misunderstanding of legal nuance could lead to fines, civil liability, and even criminal charges. If you’re not sure you understand the law, it’s best to speak with someone who does.

Hire a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

If you are an employee who anticipates relying on workers’ compensation benefits, you might not have a lot of money to spend on a lawyer. That’s okay, as almost all Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyers only charge legal fees if and when they win compensation for their clients’ cases. Schedule a free initial consultation at your earliest convenience. 

If you’ve been injured in a workers’ compensation, please contact Marzzacco Niven & Associates at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today:

Harrisburg Law Office
945 East Park Drive, Suite 103 Harrisburg, PA 17111
(717) 231-1640

York Law Office
2550 Kingston Road, Suite 210A York, PA 17401
(717) 995-8998

Wyomissing Law Office
833 N. Park Road, Suite 103, Room A Wyomissing, PA 19610
(717) 388-2325

Chambersburg Law Office
79 St. Paul Drive, Suite 1 Chambersburg, PA 17201
(717) 388-2378

Carlisle Law Office
354 Alexander Springs Road Carlisle, PA 17015
(717) 995-8732

Carbondale Law Office
30 Lincoln Avenue, Suite 101 Carbondale, PA 18407
(717) 995-8810

Lancaster Law Office
2173 Embassy Drive, Ste 123, Lancaster Pa 17603
(717) 616-2954

Lebanon Law Office
937 Willow Street, Suite D Lebanon, PA 17042-1140
(717) 995-8963