Workers compensation

Overview

Workers' compensation laws protect people who become injured or disabled while working at their jobs. The laws provide the injured workers with fixed monetary awards, in an attempt to eliminate the need for litigation. These laws also provide benefits for dependents of those workers who are killed because of work-related accidents or illnesses. Some laws also protect employers and fellow workers by limiting the amount an injured employee can recover from an employer and by eliminating the liability of co-workers in most accidents. State statutes establish this framework for most employment. Federal statutes are limited to federal employees or those workers employed in some significant aspect of interstate commerce.

State and Federal Laws Related to Workers' Compensation

There are both federal laws and state laws which relate to workers' compensation.

Federal Law

The Federal Employment Compensation Act provides workers' compensation for non-military, federal employees. Many of its provisions are typical of most workers' compensation laws. Awards are limited to "disability or death" sustained while in the performance of the employee's duties but not caused willfully by the employee or by intoxication. The act covers medical expenses due to the disability and may require the employee to undergo job retraining. A disabled employee receives two-thirds of his or her normal monthly salary during the disability and may receive more for permanent physical injuries or if he or she has dependents. The act provides compensation for survivors of employees who are killed. The act is administered by the United States Department of Labor

The Federal Employment Liability Act (FELA), while not a workers' compensation statute, provides that a railroad company engaged in interstate commerce is liable for injuries to their employees if the company has been negligent.

The Merchant Marine Act (the Jones Act) provides seamen with the same protection from employer negligence that FELA provides to railroad workers.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) to provide workers' compensation to specified employees of private maritime employers. The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs administers the act.

The Black Lung Benefits Act provides compensation for miners suffering from "black lung" (pneumoconiosis). The Act requires liable mine operators to pay disability payments and establishes a fund administered by the Secretary of Labor providing disability payments to miners where the mine operator is unknown or unable to pay. The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs's Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation regulates the administration of the act.

State Law

Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations provides an example of a comprehensive state plan for workers' compensation. It is applicable to most employers. The statute limits the liability of the employer and fellow employees. California also requires employers to obtain insurance to cover potential workers' compensation claims and sets up a fund for claims that employers have illegally failed to insure against.

Further Reading

For more on workers' compensation, see this Stetson Law Review article, this Temple Law Review article, and this page from the United States Department of Labor website.

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Federal Material

U.S. Constitution and Federal Statutes

Federal Regulations

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