Worker's Comp Exemptions for Independent Contractors

a injured construction worker wrapped up in a ladder and holding his head
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Worker's compensation is a state-based program that provides insurance benefits to employees who become ill or injured on the job. All businesses with employees must pay the cost of worker's compensation insurance, but some small businesses that have been classified as employers can exempt themselves from having to pay these costs for workers who are considered non-employees, like contract workers. 

Worker's Compensation Exemption

In all states, businesses hiring employees must pay for state worker's compensation insurance coverage in the event that an employee is injured or becomes ill due to a workplace illness or injury. Thus, workers are required to be insured under a worker's compensation policy. A Worker's Compensation Waiver or Exemption is a form used by some states to allow certain individuals (like independent contractors) to be exempt from worker's compensation payments. 

Independent Contractors as Exempt from Worker's Compensation

Each state has different regulations allowing certain employees to be exempt from worker's compensation.The most common situation exempting a worker from worker's compensation is the independent contractor. While the term "employee" is used in this situation, independent contractors are not employees; an independent contractor is a self-employed individual.

As business owners, independent contractors can attempt to exempt themselves from being covered by worker's compensation insurance in that state. The terms "waiver" and "exemption" mean essentially the same thing; the two terms are used interchangeably. In some states, these independent workers are required to state that they are "free from control" for specific occupations. Typically, the statement must be notarized, and a fee is charged for this waiver or exemption declaration.

How to Find Out If Your Small Business Qualifies as Exempt

Some states exempt sole proprietors, LLC owners, and partners in partnerships from worker's compensation payments. The US Department of Labor has a list of all the state worker's compensation offices. To find information about whether you might be exempt, you need to do some searching on the state website.  This type of exemption is most common in the construction industry.

Applying For This Exemption Depends on Your State

As you can see, the requirements for filing a worker's compensation exemption differ widely from state to state. Florida's application, for example, begins by asking you to describe the general category of exemption (construction or non-construction) and within non-construction, whether the exemption is for an officer of a corporation or a member/owner of an LLC. The business document number, from the filing with the state, is required. The application also asks for "scope of business or trade," which is the business's industry type.