A frequent question that most businesses will face is whether and/or when is the business required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. The short answer is that all businesses having three or more employees are required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. Insurance is required regardless of whether the employees are full time, part time, seasonal, family and minors or aliens, legally or illegally employed. A more difficult question is what constitutes an employee when counting toward the three employee threshold.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-2(2) defines an employee. The definition includes officers of a corporation who are automatically counted as employees in determining whether the business has three or more employees. In a corporation where the husband is the president and the wife is the secretary, if they hire one employee, then the law will deem there are three employees and the corporation will be required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance. The officers may elect to exempt themselves from the coverage, but the corporation will still have to maintain the coverage for the one employee. In sole proprietorships, partnerships and limited liability companies, the owner, partner or member is not counted as an employee. The owner, partner or member may elect to include themselves on the entity’s workers’ compensation insurance policy.
Failure to obtain and maintain the legally required insurance coverage can be expensive and legally frightening. If a covered employee is injured, and the required insurance coverage is not in place, you as the employer will be responsible for all medical expenses and compensation benefits required to be paid by law. In addition, you can be subject to both civil and criminal penalties for failing to have the required insurance coverage. N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-94.