Does Workers’ Compensation Cover All Workers?

While workers’ compensation covers the vast majority of American workers, it does not cover all of them. For instance, if you’re a nonmilitary federal worker, the Federal Employment Compensation Act covers you, not workers’ compensation per se. If you’re a railroad worker, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, a/k/a the Railroad Workers Act, covers you. If you’re a longshoreman, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act covers you for any injury you sustain or occupational disease you contract in any U.S. pier or navigable water.

Keep in mind that while workers’ compensation is a federal program, each state has its own workers’ compensation laws that determine who is covered and how claimants must go about filing claims for work-related injuries and illnesses. 

As a construction accident lawyer from a firm like Rispoli & Borneo P.C. can explain, some states specifically exclude the following types of workers from workers’ compensation coverage:

  • Agricultural workers
  • Seasonal workers
  • Domestic workers
  • Independent contractors
  • Volunteers
  • Business owners, partners and sole proprietors
  • Part-time gardeners or maintenance workers employed by a homeowner
  • Taxi drivers

Minimum Number of Employees


Each state likewise has its own laws regarding which private companies, local governments or the state itself must carry workers’ compensation insurance. The following 36 jurisdictions require employers with one or more employees to have it:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Other states exempt employers who have five or fewer employees. Kansas requires employers with a gross payroll of $20,000 or more to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Only Texas makes workers’ compensation optional for all employers except construction companies that have a federal contract with a governmental entity.

Getting Legal Help


If you live in one of the 15 states not listed above, your best course of action is to consult an experienced local workers’ compensation lawyer to see if you and your occupation are covered. Assuming you are, he or she can then help you file your claim, often a complicated, long-term process. Should your claim be denied, which happens to more than half of the claims made, he or she can then help you appeal the denial and present the strongest possible case to the administrative or other judge of what happened to you and why workers’ compensation should pay for your medical expenses and lost wages.

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