Do I Need a Workers Compensation Policy in NJ?

Written By: Gary Newborn, G. S. Newborn & Associates, Inc.

In New Jersey, the question, “Do I need a Workers Compensation policy” is not as simple as it may appear. If a business has employees, Workers Compensation is mandated by the State of New Jersey and it is a necessary and needed coverage. It gets a bit more complex when a business has no employees. Here’s the reason…

What is Workers Comp?

A Workers Compensation Insurance Policy provides benefits to workers based on each State’s statute. In New Jersey, the statute does not define who is entitled to these benefits other than the term, “employee”. The problem is that you may not know who exactly your “employee” is until after something bad happens and the court makes a ruling in your case. Of course, by that time, it is too late to purchase the coverage.

An Example of Workers Compensation

Let’s say that you are a small business in NJ that does kitchen remodeling and renovations. You are doing a project for a good customer that includes new cabinets, appliances and more. You hire a sub-contractor, George, to do the tile work for the kitchen floor.

You have known George for many years, and he has done work for you often in the past. The day the tile work is scheduled, George’s brother, Harry shows up at the job, tells you that George is sick, and he does the tile installation. The work is fine, and you call George the next day to see how he is feeling. George tells you that Harry put his back out while doing the job and is seeing his doctor. You do not hear anything for several weeks.

Then you get a letter from an attorney representing Harry indicating that Harry was injured on the job and that you should submit the information to your Workers Compensation insurance carrier as they are petitioning for benefits under your policy. In this case, Harry was an occasional worker for George who did not carry a Workers Compensation insurance policy. Because you are the General Contractor in this case, NJ statute makes you responsible for the injuries to Harry (the employee of an uninsured sub-contractor).

The case goes to the special workers compensation court in NJ where they award Harry benefits under your policy. Do you have a policy? If you don’t, you are still responsible to provide Harry with the benefits that the court has awarded him (these will be out of your pocket if you don’t have a policy). In addition, you will face fines and penalties from the State for not having a policy.

This is just one situation where someone who you would never think of as your employee becomes your responsibility under NJ statute. Other situations would include a temporary or occasional worker, a relative who helps you out for the day, or a sub-contractor who is not covered under their own workers compensation policy.

Independent Contractors

This information may be very different than what you have been told by your bookkeeper or accountant. That is because there is a very real difference between an accounting relationship and a legal relationship. Just because you pay someone as a 1099 sub-contractor does not make them one under the various laws that deal with employer-employee relationships. For more about this subject, see our blog about Independent Contractors.

Type of Business Structure

The type of business structure affects your need for Workers Compensation as well. If you are structured as a Corporation, corporate officers are considered employees (even if there is no payroll involved) and are subject to the workers compensation statute. If you are structured as an Individual/Sole-Proprietor, a Partnership, or a Limited Liability Company (LLC), the owners (individual, partners or members of the LLC) are not considered employees and are not automatically eligible for workers compensation benefits under the NJ statute.

However, you may elect coverage for this class of owners to provide coverage if desired. It is not unusual for a General Contractor to require all Sub-Contractors to elect coverage under Workers Compensation.

Contact us if you have questions on your need for a Workers Compensation Insurance Policy.