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Do You Have a Domestic Employee?

6/8/2010 by WebSolutions

By Dan Corbin, CPCU, CIC, LUTC

Workers' compensation laws exist to protect employees who are injured while in the service of their employers. Homeowners, who are not otherwise deemed to be employers with regard to business activities, may find themselves subject to the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Law. Homeowners have a nonbusiness exposure for both domestic employees subject to the Workers' Compensation Law and domestic employees subject to tort law.

Subject Employment

When homeowners employ an individual to do any type of service in or about their private residence for more than 26 hours per week on a regular basis, a separate standard workers' compensation policy must be purchased, unless the homeowners policy is specifically endorsed to provide this coverage (which is very unusual). This will satisfy the obligation to compensate the employee with statutory benefits should an injury occur.

Some homeowners decide that they want to voluntarily protect employees who work 26 or less hours per week with benefits available under the Workers' Compensation Law. Again, this is possible with the purchase of a standard workers' compensation policy.

Domestic workers are classified for rating purposes as either inside (0913), outside (0912), occasional inside (0908) or occasional outside (0909). The basis for rating is not payroll, but the number of persons employed. Since domestic employers may voluntarily insure employees not subject to the law, an occasional classification is available to accommodate the diminished exposure represented by less time spent on the job. In order to be rated as occasional, a worker's employment cannot exceed more than half of the customary full-time hours. (The number of persons to be rated is based on the aggregate time for all occasional workers divided by the number of hours considered to be half of the customary full-time hours; including one for the remainder.)

The Jan. 1, 2007, Connecticut Workers' Compensation Insurance Plan rates are as follows:

  • (0913)-$603 per person, $703 min. premium
  • (0908)-$275 per person, $500 min. premium
  • (0912)-$650 per person, $500 min. premium
  • (0909)-$221 per person, $500 min. premium.

Minors

Connecticut and the federal government have extensive labor laws which govern the employment of minors. The Connecticut Department of Labor publishes a convenient brochure titled Checklist for the Employment of Minors. It may be obtained free-of-charge by writing to: Connecticut Department of Labor, Wage & Workplace Standards Division, 200 Folly Brook Blvd., Wethersfield, Conn. 06109-1114, or by telephone: (860) 566-7184. Also available online at:
http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/wgwkstnd/minors/wgminors.htm.

You also may obtain information from the department on the Internet at www.ctdol.state.ct.us/. Most homeowners would be surprised to discover that federal law prohibits minors under 16 from operating power-driven machinery, including lawn mowers. Connecticut's Labor Law does not have a restriction on a minor's use of lawn mowers, unless it is a riding reel lawn mower. Nevertheless, the more restrictive federal law would apply. Your advice to homeowners should be to avoid hiring minors under age 16 to mow their lawns.

Employers Liability

If the household employment does not involve domestic employees working more than 26 hours per week, then an injured employee who is not protected by the Workers' Compensation Law would retain the common law right to sue for injury damages. Though a judgment against the homeowner may include general (pain and suffering) damages, the outcome for the worker is much less certain than compensation under the Workers' Compensation Law. To prevail in a suit, the worker must overcome certain defenses available to the employer, proving that some wrong was committed against the worker.

A homeowner's employment of baby-sitters, painters, landscapers, caterers, house cleaners and various other types of casual employment creates the possibility of a lawsuit. Section II-Liability Coverages of a homeowners policy will provide defense against such a lawsuit as long as it is not related to a business activity; in which case it would necessitate the purchase of a standard workers' compensation policy. 11/05

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