A bill currently before the Massachusetts Senate would make failure to purchase workers’ compensation insurance a felony offense. Senate Bill 915 was reportedly designed to deter companies that do business in Massachusetts from failing to maintain or purchase workers’ compensation coverage. Currently, business owners who fail to purchase coverage in the state may be guilty of a misdemeanor offense that is subject to a maximum fine of $1,500 and up to one year in prison. The proposed law would increase the penalty dramatically. Convicted business owners would face a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to five years in prison.
Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws often provide the only avenue for financial recovery after an on the job injury. Payments made to hurt employees are paid out of a state trust account that is funded by Massachusetts employers who purchase workers’ compensation coverage. If a business owner’s employee is hurt, the worker is paid out of the trust account whether or not the employer has contributed to the fund. According to the Chairman of the Workers Compensation Advisory Council, John Regan, this means other employers are footing the bill for employers who do not purchase workers’ compensation coverage.
Regan and the advisory council have endorsed Senate Bill 915. Others, such as Bill Vernon of the National Federation of Independent Business believe the proposed law may deter job growth in Massachusetts. Vernon claims current penalties are sufficient to keep employers from misclassifying workers in an effort to avoid paying for workers’ compensation insurance. He stated stiffer penalties will definitely hurt business owners who unintentionally misclassify their employees as independent contractors.
According to the Department of Industrial Accidents, about 1,000 employee injuries occurred at businesses in Massachusetts that did not purchase workers’ compensation coverage over the last five years. The cases resulted in payments totaling approximately $26 million, all of which were paid out of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation trust fund. In both 2009 and 2010, the agency issued nearly 3,500 stop work orders at businesses that did not comply with state workers’ compensation insurance requirements. In 2011, that number dropped to just below 3,000 orders. During each of the last three years, the department collected between $1.3 million and $1.8 million in fines associated with such stop work orders.
Massachusetts State Senator Katherine Clark sponsored Senate Bill 915. She claims the bill is designed to increase the safety of workers in the state. She also said workers’ compensation fraud is a felony in Massachusetts and the new law would simply make business owners who fail to provide coverage subject to similar penalties. If you were injured at your place of employment, you are advised to contact an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your case.
At Pulgini & Norton, LLP, our knowledgeable Andover workers’ compensation lawyers are available to answer your questions after a workplace injury. Our attorneys will help you file your workers’ compensation claim, gather any required medical documentation, and negotiate on your behalf to help you achieve the compensation your injuries merit. Our law firm is available to assist injured clients throughout Massachusetts. Call Pulgini & Norton today at (888) 344-2046 or contact us through our website to discuss your injury and learn more about workers’ compensation laws in Massachusetts.
Easton, Massachusetts Worker Shot in Chest With Nail Gun, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, April 13, 2012
Watertown Roofing Company Admits to Workers’ Compensation Fraud, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, February 16, 2012
Workers’ compensation failure a felony under bill before Senate, by Shira Schoenberg, Boston Herald