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Who Is Exempt from Workers’ Compensation?

In California, the vast majority of workers are covered by workers’ compensation. Any employer who has even one employee must have workers’ compensation insurance. There are no exceptions for employees who work part time vs. full time, nor are there any exceptions for seasonal workers. Additionally, immigration status does not affect an injured workers’ right to medical and temporary wage replacement benefits in California; green card holders and undocumented workers are eligible to receive workers’ compensation, though there are some restrictions on available benefits for undocumented workers.

As you can see, California has some of the most comprehensive workers’ compensation coverage. So, is anyone not covered by workers’ comp? The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is yes; certain workers are not covered by workers’ compensation in California.

These include:

  • Business owners/sole proprietors (aside from roofers)
  • Independent contractors
  • Domestic workers who are related to their employers
  • Individuals who work for aid (food, housing, etc.) rather than pay
  • Certain volunteers, including volunteers for non-profit organizations
  • Deputy sheriffs and deputy clerks
  • Students participating in amateur sporting events/amateur sports officials

There are several other specific exclusions; you can see the full list of individuals excluded from workers’ compensation coverage in California in the California Labor Code, Division 4, Part 1, Chapter 2, Section 3352.

Independent Contractor Classification in California

One of the most common workers’ comp-related issues in California is the issue of misclassification of independent contractors. Because many independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation, it’s important to understand whether you are rightfully classified as an independent contractor or if your employer has misclassified your employment status and you are actually an employee. The latter happens more often than many people realize, either due to an employer’s honest mistake or attempts to avoid having to purchase workers’ compensation insurance.

Under the recently passed Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), an individual can only be classified as an independent contractor if they meet all of the following conditions:

  • The hiring entity does not maintain direction/control over the individual in the performance of the work, both in terms of the contract and actual performance of the work
  • The work performed is outside the normal scope/type of work carried out by the hiring entity/company
  • The individual performing the work is “customarily engaged” in independent work that is the same as or similar to the work being performed for the hiring entity

This is known as the “ABC” test, and if an individual does not meet all three points, he or she is considered to be an employee of the hiring entity. The ABC test is the primary way of determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee, but it does not apply in all cases. You can learn more about AB 5, the ABC test, and exceptions here.

Do I Need Workers’ Compensation Insurance If I Am Self-Employed?

Unless you are a roofer, all of whom are required to self-insure, you are not required by California state law to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for yourself. If you do not have workers’ comp, you will not be covered and cannot receive benefits if you are injured on the job.

Helping You Understand Your Legal Rights

If you are unsure whether you are covered by workers’ compensation, need help filing a claim or appealing a denied claim, or believe your employment status has been misclassified by an employer, we encourage you to reach out to our workers’ compensation attorneys here at Alvandi Law Group, P.C. With offices located in Irvine, Corona, and Bakersfield, we serve clients throughout Orange County and beyond.

Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation regarding your situation. 



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