Almost every business in the United States that has employees must deal with the question of workers’ compensation. Most states, including Georgia, require employers to purchase insurance to handle their statutory obligations to workers who suffer a work-related illness or injury.
Business owners will offer a lot of reasons why they don’t have workers’ compensation, but it is necessary for doing business.
Some business owners say workers’ compensation insurance is just a burdensome government program. It’s really unnecessary and not a big deal. Some think it is too cost prohibitive. And sometimes a business owner wrongfully believes an employee is just an independent contractor.
There are consequences for business owners if they do not carry workers’ comp. If an employee gets injured at work, and the employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance and is supposed to, the employer faces not only potential fines and penalties, but even possible criminal prosecution.
The business owner also is responsible for payment of medical bills and possibly wages replacement to the employee.
Not only is not having worker’s compensation dangerous to the employer, it can also be detrimental to the injured employee as the employer may not be able to pay the benefits that the employee is entitled to by law.
Also, workers’ compensation is good for Georgia employers – it’s a trade-off where employers are protected from being sued by their employees in exchange for employers providing medical and income benefits in the event of a work-related injury or illness.
The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation has an Enforcement Division whose mission is “to work with businesses operating in Georgia to assure compliance under the Workers’ Compensation Law, to deter fraud through public relations and investigations, and to enforce the rules and regulations of the Workers’ Compensation Board.”
On its website, there is a form for reporting workers’ compensation fraud and non-compliance. An employer can be reported for violating the law by not having required workers’ compensation insurance even if there has not been a workplace injury. If an employee files a claim for benefits, that is another way the employer can get caught not having insurance.
Overall, an uninsured employer risks being responsible (and in some cases even personally) for the employee’s workers’ compensation benefits, attorney’s fees, penalties and even criminal prosecution.
Not having workers’ compensation insurance is not worth the risk. It’s a gamble that does not pay off.