Are All Virginia Employees Covered By Workers’ Compensation?

Manual worker with closed eyes sitting on stack of wooden plank and massaging lower back while feeling pain in back possible Virginia workers compensation claim.

To receive workers’ compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury or occupational disease, a person must work for an employer required to have coverage by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. Most — but not all — employers in the state must have workers’ compensation insurance. That means most Virginia employees are covered, but some are not. In addition, the worker must qualify as an employee to receive benefits. As simple as that requirement seems, it is not always easy to demonstrate.

Which Virginia Employers Must Provide Workers’ Comp Coverage?

The Virginia statute requires employers with three or more employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If you work for an employer with two or fewer employees, your employer is not required to provide workers’ comp benefits, but may do so voluntarily.

For purposes of determining whether coverage is required, a contractor or other business that hires subcontractors to perform work must count all employees of subcontractors to determine the total number of employees for workers’ compensation purposes. If the contractor and subcontractors together have three or more employees, insurance coverage is required by law. This requirement applies regardless of whether a subcontractor provides separate workers’ comp coverage for their employees.

Which Virginia Employers Are Not Required to Have Coverage?

The law does not require a sole proprietor with no employees to have workers’ comp coverage. Similarly, Virginia does not require a company with just one or two employees to have coverage.

Casual and domestic workers generally are not covered by workers’ compensation. A person who hires someone to help in their home does not have to provide workers’ comp insurance if they hire an individual to do house cleaning, babysit, or provide similar types of assistance. However, if a business provides the service, the business must have coverage if it employs three or more people.

Some specific jobs are excluded from Virginia workers’ compensation requirements. They include:

  • Elected officials
  • Licensed real estate brokers and salespersons
  • Taxicab drivers excluded from taxation by the Federal Unemployment Tax Act
  • Farm and horticultural laborers who work for a business that does not regularly have three or more full-time employees
  • Railroad workers
  • Some volunteer firefighters and lifesaving or rescue squad members
  • Federal employees covered by the Federal Employment Compensation Act (FECA)
  • Maritime workers and seamen
  • Sports officials, such as umpires, referees, and scorekeepers who perform services for a sponsored interscholastic or intercollegiate sports event

If you are injured at work and are uncertain whether your employer is required to provide workers’ compensation benefits, you should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

Who Qualifies as Virginia Employees for Workers’ Compensation Purposes?

Even if the workers’ compensation law requires an employer to have insurance coverage, an injured worker still must qualify as an employee to receive benefits. Whether a worker is an employee is based on the employment arrangement, rather than on the terminology the employer uses to describe the worker or the job.

Many workers, including full-time and part-time employees, seasonal and temporary workers, apprentices, trainees, and working family members qualify as employees for workers’ comp purposes. Volunteers generally do not qualify as employees.

The frequency and duration of employment is not relevant to whether a worker qualifies as an employee. Eligibility for workers’ compensation begins immediately when an employee starts work. Accidents or injuries that occur to new employees who are learning their job are covered in the same way as injuries to long-term employees.

Independent contractors of an employer are not employees, and do not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Generally, an independent contractor is a person who is self-employed, works for multiple businesses, and receives a 1099 federal income tax form. In contrast, an employee is not self-employed, works for one company, and receives a W-2 federal tax form. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission considers a range of factors in determining whether an injured worker is an employee or independent contractor, including whether the employer maintained control over the employment relationship and the worker’s performance of their duties.

In some cases, an employer may deny benefits on the basis that an injured worker is an independent contractor, when in fact the worker qualifies as an employee under the law. If you face that situation, you should talk with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer to protect your right to benefits.

Getting Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Even if you qualify as an employee working for an employer with workers’ compensation coverage, an injury must meet other requirements to be eligible for benefits. Employers deny workers’ comp claims for many different reasons. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you make certain that you receive the benefits the law provides for you.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Virginia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

If you received an injury at work, our experienced Virginia workers’ compensation attorneys at Renfro & Renfro are here to help. We assist injured workers with every step of the claim process, including addressing issues relating to employment status when the employer raises them. We welcome you to call us at (804) 601-4433 or contact us for a free consultation.


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