Workers’ Compensation or workers’ comp is available to all employees who either become injured or ill at work. However, depending on your state or occupation; you may not be. A common myth is that all employees across the United States are covered. This applies to many but not everyone.

Are all employees covered?

The Federal Employment Compensation Act (FECA) provides all non-military and federal employees with workers’ compensation. Workers who are employed by either private companies, states, or local governments should contact their state’s workers’ compensation board for details on who is covered in their business. Some states do not cover occupations such as independent contractors, domestic employees, agricultural employees, or seasonal employees in the workers’ compensation system. Additionally, some states require coverage only if there are a certain amount of employees hired. To avoid dealing with claims against your company, contact a serious workers’ compensation attorney in your regional area.

Below are workers’ comp requirements for New England states:

  • Connecticut- 1 or more employees
  • Maine- 1 or more employees. Exemption for independent contractor
  • Massachusetts—1 or more employees. Domestic service must be covered if they work 16 or more hours per week
  • New Hampshire- 1 or more employees
  • Rhode Island- 4 or more employees
  • Vermont- 1 or more employees

Who is covered in Massachusetts?

All employees in Massachusetts must be covered by workers’ comp insurance. According to MGL c. 152, § 1(4), the definition of an employee is “every person in the service of another under any contact of hire, express, or implied, oral, and or written.” Some exceptions to this statement are:

  • Salesmen of real estate or consumer goods who work on a buy/sell basis or commission other than in a retail establishment, with a written contract stating that they are not treated as an employee under the federal tax law
  • Taxi drivers who lease cabs on a fee basis not relating to fares collected and who are not treated as an employee under federal tax law
  • Seamen engaged in interstate/ foreign commerce
  • Persons engaged with interstate and foreign commerce who are covered by federal law for compensation in the case of injury or death

Independent contractors

It is hard to determine who is an independent contractor for workers’ compensation claims and disputes. The determination of an independent contractor’s status is always a question of fact. Therefore, it is best to contact your local or regional attorney for more information and any questions. In Massachusetts, all workers are assumed to be employees. An employee who wants to be treated like an independent contractor should show:

  • Work is done without employer’s direction and control,
  • Work is performed outside the usual course of business,
  • Work is done by someone who has their own, trader or independent business doing work.


There is no single rule that decides who is a subcontractor. The deciding factor is whether the employer has control over the manner and methods of the work. It is possible that money can be deducted from the subcontractor’s workers’ comp insurance by the general contractor- only if it is listed in the contract. It is important to verify the status of subcontractor insurance because general contractors have legitimate concerns about being held liable for claims against them. Employers or general contractors may require subcontractors to show proof of coverage or come to agreement under the workers’ comp policy with costs passed on to them. In addition, homeowners are held responsible if a contractor is injured while working.

Small and family businesses

For small or family owned businesses, all employers need to carry workers’ comp for employees. This includes themselves if they are an employee at their company. This is a requirement regardless of the number hours worked. An exception is domestic service employees who must a minimum of 16 hours per week to get coverage. Note that family members must be covered by workers’ comp insurance coverage even if they are the only listed employees of the business.

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