Workers Compensation

Hi, all,

I’m a lurker, but here is something I believe I know about. It is
illegal (at least in California) to have someone working on your
premises, with your tools, and define her as an independent
contractor. Even if she is working with her own tools (and sometimes
even on her own premises), the law usually rules against the employer
in these cases.

Please, Orchidians, do not walk away from these situations, even if
a lawyer tells you it isn’t worth it. I had a repetitive use injury
(not jewelry related) that 2 lawyers told me was worthless. I
eventually got over $75,000 in temporary disability ($25,000 was
retroactive), Vocational Rehab retraining, permanent medical care,
and a $45,000 permanent disability settlement. Luckily, I didn’t lose
my thumb, because I wouldn’t have gotten anymore for that. I’m not
saying the system is great, but the labor movement fought for all of
us to get this protection, and we need to use it.

If you find out that you are not covered, call your state government
and report your employer. If you find out after you’re injured, sue.
I’m not allowed to "shout’ on this list, or I would have used
capitals for that. I’m not allowed to use nasty names, but please do
not feel sorry for the xxx’s that can afford to make a profit off you
but not give you basic insurance. If they’re that hard up, they can
do the work themselves.

As for the rest of it, I would love to see a something like a
jeweler’s union–to set employment standards, get group insurance
rates for both small employers and true independent contractors, and
generally use organizing as a toll to improve the lot of those who
aren’t so successful that they can afford “securities.” No, this
profession still wouldn’t attract people who plan to go to law
school–and why would we want to?–but we could make it a little less
dangerous to become ill and grow old as an artists in this thoroughly
sick culture (I would love to hear about the systems in other
countries, which I doubt are so inhumane).

In solidarity,
Lisa In Benicia
where everyone is an artist

Lisa, I’m totally behind you. Although I live in Canada, I’ll keep
your comments in mind. My hat’s off to you for your efforts and
their results. Another lurker, DrJude

 get group insurance rates for both small employers and true
independent contractors 

You don’t need a jewelers union to get this. There are numerous
small business groups nationwide that any small business owner can
join and get better health insurance rates. Daniel R. Spirer, GG

Okay, I may be the young guy here and not know as much as the rest
of you, but I was thinking, =93my experience with big business is that
the more people that you have in a insurance plan, the less it costs
for each one=94 why can=92t jewelers all pool together and bring us in
under one plan throughout the United States or just a state (sorry to
those outside the US, we in the US don=92t have privatized health care=

I think this may be an issue that has already been addressed, or
maybe not, but I think if a group of persons were in =93business to do
this=94 that was part of their income and they were established as
employees of the whole that everyone pays into, then theoretically
you should be able to bring down the cost of health care for everyone

Now, it may require a something to show that we are all employed by
a parent company. (i.e. We all pay one cent a year or something like
to that main parent company as dues and we are all paid one cent for
our work.) I am sure that something could be worked out that the HMO
would like to have our money and us as an account. (the terms us, our
and we are used hypothetically and does not mean to indicate that all
have to or should be obligated to join as being readers of this web

what do you all think?

Aaron A Tracy
Soon to be in business for myself and wondering about stuff like this

One way that you could decrease the cost of HR costs, including
health care and workers compensation insurance, is to sign up with a
Professional Employer Organization or PEO. The PEO acts as a
"co-employer" of your employees, and can handle payroll, health
insurance, workers compensation and other employee-related
responsibilities. Because a sucessful PEO represents a large number
of employees, it can cut better deals on health insurance than you
as a small business owner would be able to.

Lee Einer

I think that part of the group plan costing less factor involves the
group itself. A large corporation has a wider variety of jobs at
which people are employed - i.e. not everyone does the same job so
that not all are classified under the same risk category. This,
probably combined with the large # of employees (which translates to
more money going to the insurance company), may be what tends to give
better rates. Also, most large companies pay part of the employee’s
insurance cost, thus leaving a relatively small amount (or none for
some) for the employee to pay. I’m not an insurance expert or
employee but that’s my experience from having worked for large
companies for a number of years. Good idea, though, as a starting
point for self employed individuals. As a matter of fact, I think I
recall that there are some insurance organizations that offer "group"
rates for self employed because they do pool their clients in an
effort to bring them better rates. Others here may have more
and/or first hand experience with that option.

-Dee Dee

Problem #1: All states have different laws regarding health
insurance coverage. You cannot get health insurance coverage in
California that is the same as Massachusetts. Blue Cross/Blue Shield
will offer different types of coverage in different states and you
won’t actually use the same Blue Cross from state to state.

Problem#2: You can’t be an employee of a company just by getting 1
penny from them.

Problem#3: It simply isn’t necessary. There are organizations you
can join that offer somewhat better rates by pooling people like us
together. You won’t get enough jewelers in one state to join one
program so that it would actually be any bigger savings by insuring
yourselves instead of through one of these organizations.

Problem#4: It’s unclear that HMO’s really want us as customers.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Hi, all, I already replied to Daniel’s post off-list, since I got a
quite virulent off-list response (“jewelers who want Workers Comp
coverage are bloodsuckers,” etc.) to my original post.

But, since Aaron has decide to keep this thread going, I will go
ahead and post my response to Daniel, only adding that I never
thought about “creating an employer” in the way Aaron suggests.
Orchidians are so creative!

I know that getting “group rates” on health insurance is not so
hard, but even then many small shops and independent contractors
can’t afford it. I’m lucky enough to be married to someone who has
one of the few really good union jobs left, so I have great coverage.
When I was single, I almost always had to pay for my own, even when I
was a small business manager.

Workers Comp is different–it only covers work-related injuries,
employers are required by law to have it, rates are set by industry
(one company I managed claimed to do “landscaping,” rather than “tree
work,” so that we would get lower rates), and rates for an individual
employer are set according to type and number of claims. The
rationale for the latter is that it will reward employers who run a
safe shop.

Unfortunately, most of the true independent contractors I know
can’t afford to pay for their own-- and they don’t pay for disability
coverage either. So, if that woman who lost her thumb did it in her
own studio, she would get nothing. (Of course, because her employer
****ed her, she got nothing anyway.) I’ve seen people lose their
ability to do the work they love too many times–it’s heartbreaking
enough, even when they have medical care, money for rehab, and

Best wishes,
Lisa in Benicia
where everyone is an artist
(with no coverage, or a day job…)

   Workers Comp is different--it only covers work-related
injuries, employers are required by law to have it Lisa in Benicia 

Hi Lisa and fellow Orchidians: Best to check with a good accountant
regarding worker’s comp as the legal requirements can vary from State
to State. In Michigan, when I was incorporated there, it was
prohibited by law to insure yourself with worker’s comp but against
the law to have any employees without insuring them. Here in New
York, corporate officers are allowed to “opt out” of coverage but
their employees must be provided with it. As you may or may not
know, worker’s comp is basically insurance against injury that you
get from the insurance agency of your choice, it is not a function of
government to provide it. There is social security disability, a
benifit that is a feature of social security, and we all pay into the
fund for that, employees and their employers. If you have been
injured, social security is in place to insure that you do not become
destitute, and if I were injured, whether or not there was workers
comp in place, I would certainly go to social services and seek help.
If any of you accountants want to correct me or elaborate on what
I’ve said, I welcome it.

David L. Huffman

Thanks for the info I knew that something had to be easier than we
all jsut go it alone, and I know that the laws differ from state to
state, but Boeing, Lockheed, and huge employers have found a way
around it, so there has to be a way,

Aaron A Tracy always finding a problem and another way to fix it

  There is social security disability, a benifit that is a feature
of social security, and we all pay into the fund for that,
employees and their employers.  If you have been injured, social
security is in place to insure that you do not become destitute,
and if I were injured, whether or not there was workers comp in
place, I would certainly go to social services and seek help. If
any of you accountants want to correct me or elaborate on what I've
said, I welcome it.  

SSI is not the umbrella here that it sounds like. It is income
dependant, and it’s based over a period of time. You aren’t allowed
to have assets over a certain value, something less than $5000, I

I’m speaking from the voice of a mom of a seriously physically
disabled child who requires full care. SSI is SSI, regardless of who
is applying. We thought when my husband was laid off from his job
and our income was cut in half that we would qualify for it again,
and she would get health insurance, at least, through that program.
Not so, thanks to the welfare reforms of the last decade or so.

If one is looking at applying for SSI for any reason, you need to
read up about what the income limits, asset limits, and value of
your car limits are. You may not transfer those assets within a
certain period of time before applying-something like 3-6 months.
You also may not have savings or anything like that over something
like $2000.The figures are frighteningly low, and the benefit one
gets through the program is usually less than $500/month.

Now, when my husband was unable to work a year ago for several
weeks, due to a non-work related injury, workers comp was 80% of his
salary. There’s a huge financial difference, for most people,
between the amount workers comp pays and the amount that SSI pays.
Don’t count on SSI.

Dawn Stevenson

Well I still think that something could be done and that an HMO or
something of the like could be set up for a group to make group
health care and workers comp. I am not pro union, but I am pro
responsibility, if I work for you and I get hurt, it is your
responsibility to make it better (the Law says that) as a gold smith
I am expected to work for low wages, and in conditions that can kill
me, with platinum that can damage my eyes, gold that can give me skin
disease (just kidding see last few days postings), some chemicals
that are DEADLY in even small amounts, human pathogens, rotating
blades, bits and fire, abrasives that cut ANYTHING, and several horse
power tools that can kill or maim me.

Heck yeah I want workers comp, and why is health care such an issue?
I know that we are all trying to make things work and bring in more
money for ourselves while keeping costs low. But I think that if
something was started we could all benefit from it, after all this is
how the American Revolution got some of us here, some people sticking
together and facing down the big guy. Finding the problem is half of
the solution. I would just like to have solutions when I start my
business rather than problems. not sure how, I just will

Aaron A Tracy

  1. Social Security offers very little disability protection and
    is notoriously slow in processing/approving claims; unemployment
    benefits are limited and of short duration. If these are your only
    safety nets then you’re in for a rough landing.

  2. Workers Comp is regulated by each state, and each state has
    different laws. Do NOT rely on an accountant to provide advice about
    Workers Comp. Generally the best starting source is your particular
    state’s website, usually entitled Department of, or
    similar. Laws vary greatly: what affects your cousin in Iowa doesn’t
    mean squat in (say) Delaware. WC covers occupational injuries,
    including medical and wage loss, and usually re-hab/retraining.
    Generally small businesses do NOT carry it; and even some larger
    businesses get around the legal requirements by classifying workers
    as ‘contract labor’ or ‘independent contractors.’ WC can be VERY
    expensive to purchase on your own (again depending on where you
    live), but, if you are self-employed or work for a shop that does
    not display a WC poster, you may want to at least investigate buying
    a policy. Rates are generally established by state law…so you’ll
    find next-to-no variation in price (if you do, somebody’s fudging
    some where). You may have a hard time obtaining, and there are some
    fairly heavy paperwork burdens even if you do.

  3. Health Insurance…be very careful. That cheap policy you
    have may specifically EXCLUDE occupational injuries as health
    insurance companies feel (rightly) that occupational injuries are the
    purview of the WC carriers. In Florida, where I live, I do not know
    of a comprehensive individual health insurance policy that covers
    job-related injuries. That’s not to say there isn’t one or two out
    there, but frankly I doubt it. Similarly, group insurance policies
    normally exclude occupational injuries, for the same reason
    previously cited. Think you can fool the insurance company? Maybe
    once…but the second claim, or the big one, will arouse suspicions
    and, worse, earn you a denial of coverage.

  4. Disability Insurance…For wage loss and sometimes re/hab &
    re-training. You’re going to need a very good insurance agent for
    this product, possibly even two or three competing. Go for the best
    coverage and NOT the cheapest premium. Expensive, but can also offer
    24/7 protection; you’ll need the $$$ after that heart attack caused
    by cleaving a two-carat, alleged pretty-near flawless. The
    likelihood of a career-ending disability is much greater than
    career-ending death! Research this one closely.

Is jewelry design/repair/manufacturing/fabrication hazardous? You
betcha’…not as bad as logging, but only marginally safer than auto
mechanics. Look at the tools you work with, the chemicals you’re
exposed to, the products you sell (tempting targets, they are). Feel
the burn in your wrists, the numbness in your digits, the spasm
between your shoulder blades. Are you thinking of getting a
prescription opti-visor?

Amazing how people meticulously catalog the ‘things’ they wanted to
insure, but spend very little time and even less money on the matter
between their ears that got them all those things. Your hands, your
skill, your experience are infinitely more valuable than that
flexshaft you’re so proud of. Figure out a way to protect your true
assets. And, as Mr. Geller keeps hammering away at, pack your prices
to assure that you cover them…

Rick Barbare

    Thanks for the info I knew that something had to be easier
than we all jsut go it alone, and I know that the laws differ from
state to state, but Boeing, Lockheed, and huge employers have found
a way around it, so there has to be a way, Aaron A Tracy always
finding a problem and another way to fix it 

Aaron, Nope huge employers make deals with insurance providers
licensed in each state they have workers in. In some cases this is
only one provider but many large firms have several insurance
providers even in one state.

It is an unfortunate reality that medical insurance is costing you
or your employer between $200 - $700 a month per employee depending
on the level of coverage and number of employees. Insurance the
number one uncontrolled expense in running a business, and business
are either cutting benefits or making employees pay part of the cost
to try to deal with it. But if the rates keep going up they will
have only one choice and that is to stop providing the health
insurance benefit. If this happens to a large enough part of the
population then maybe we can finally get enough pressure on the
politicians to do something about national health care. Until then
the costs are going to keep skyrocketing.


Workers Compensation regulations do vary by state. If you are an
employer, and elect not to carry Workers Compensation coverage on
your employees, you would be wise to have the laws and regulations
checked very thoroughly in your particular state. In Arizona, if a
claim is filed and the employer does not have Workers Compensation
coverage, the State steps in, pays the expenses associated with the
compensable injury, and then pursues the employer to recoup the
monies paid out plus all applicable fines and penalties.

You should realize that Workers Compensation does not only protect
employees, but employers as well. Workers Compensation generally
precludes employees suing their employers over work-related
injuries. It may be much less expensive to pay for the Workers
Compensation coverage than to be sued by an employee and end up
paying legal fees, court costs and punitive damages in addition to
your employee’s medical expenses.

You should also realize that your obligation toward a worker who is
injured while working for you is not only an issue of law and of
finance-- it is a matter of ethics.

Lee Einer

While these statements about SSI are true as far as they go, Social
Security Disability (SSD) is separate and distinct from SSI. SSD,
unlike SSI, is not income dependent; it is essentially early access
to your Social Security benefit based on your total disability. It
is not based on indigence, like SSI. It is based on past earnings,
like regulary Social Security. Be aware that in order to qualify,
you need to be totally disabled for a minimum of 24 months. The
question is, what will you be doing to avoid losing your house, car,
etc during that first 24 months when you do not yet qualify for SSD?

Also, just because you have paid into Social Security all of your
working life, don’t expect that you will be able to just apply and
get it, even if you are totally and permanently disabled. Many
legitimate filings for SSD and SSI are initially denied, and are
only later approved through the appeals process. So, on top of the 2
year wait for eligibility, plan on a likely 6-8 month delay during
which your claim is denied and you (and your attorney) get to
assemble documentation and appear before an Administrative Law

Lee Einer