Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Interns?
Interning at a company can be a great experience: you get to develop new skills, build relationships with people in your chosen field, earn credits for school, and more.
What interns don’t want to experience, however, is a workplace accident and injury.
Still, it happens all the time in Ohio and throughout the U.S. If a workplace injury happens to you, you’ll need to know your rights and options. Are you covered by workers’ compensation as an intern? What if you’re an unpaid intern—are you covered then?
Let’s talk about workers’ compensation and interns.
Workers’ Compensation & Interns
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation—that’s the government agency that handles workers’ compensation in our state—states: “BWC pays medical benefits and lost wages to employees who are injured or contract an occupational disease on the job.”
In order to collect workers’ compensation, a few things need to be true:
- Your employer needs to have workers’ compensation insurance.
- You were injured in a workplace accident or fell ill as a result of your job.
- You are considered an “employee.”
Note: while most employees are eligible for workers’ compensation, there are exceptions. The following types of workers are often exempt from workers’ compensation:
- Household workers (like cooks, gardeners, housekeepers, and babysitters) who earn less than $160 per quarter
- Casual workers (think someone who does the odd job here or there)
- Seasonal workers
- Temp workers
- Independent contractors (also known as freelance or gig workers)
- Volunteer workers
Do interns qualify as “employees”? In general, the answer is yes. That’s because, for most interns, the following is true:
- The internship is formalized and detailed, with a set schedule
- The employer controls where, when, and how they work
- The employer, not the intern, has invested in work expenses, training, and equipment
- The intern doesn’t have much (or any) opportunity for profit or loss
- The intern works for one employer
- The employer has agreed to regular pay for hourly, weekly, or periodic work for the intern
Even if unpaid, many interns will still be considered an “employee” for workers’ compensation purposes.
Workers’ Comp & Misclassification
Unfortunately, worker misclassification is all too common.
What is “worker misclassification”? It’s when an employer (deliberately or not) puts an employee in the wrong worker category. Often, this is done by shady employers who want to avoid paying their workers benefits like workers’ compensation.
In the case of interns, for example, a company may misclassify them as casual workers or temp workers. Unpaid interns may be classified as volunteers. Then, these interns may hear from their employers that workers’ comp doesn’t cover them—which isn’t true.
If you’ve been injured on the job during your internship, it’s important to know—and assert—your rights.
Applying for Workers’ Compensation: Your Rights & Responsibilities
After a work-related injury or illness, you have a number of rights and responsibilities. You will need to:
- Seek medical attention if necessary.
- Report the injury or illness to your employer.
- Notify your employer if you are filing a workers’ compensation claim.
- File your claim in a timely manner.
- Provide the BWC with medical information needed to assess your claim.
- Follow any medical restrictions from your doctor until you’re able to return to work.
- Keep your employer informed of progress.
Your employer is responsible for investigating the accident, certifying or rejecting your claim, and working with you to coordinate your return to work.
If your employer decides to reject your claim, you have the right to fight it. (An employer might reject a claim for any number of reasons, from worker misclassification to the simple belief that you aren’t really injured or sick.)
This is where having a good workers’ compensation attorney in your corner can be invaluable.
Hiring an Attorney
If your workers’ compensation claim is complex or disputed, hiring an attorney is often a smart move.
The workers’ compensation process by itself is complex, and it’s easy to make mistakes that negatively affect your claim. (That’s not to mention the difficulties of fighting your employer.)
An experienced, knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the process, fill out forms correctly, advise you of your rights, and fight for you during BWC hearings. Having a lawyer—versus going it alone—can increase your odds of success.
Call Us Today
We’re here to help you with all aspects of workers’ compensation. Not sure if you even qualify as an intern? We’ll take a look at your case and let you know. Confused about the process? We’ll walk you through it. Worried your employer will successfully reject your claim? We’ll do everything in our power to defend your right to workers’ compensation.
Call us today to speak to a Cincinnati workers’ compensation lawyer at Casper & Casper.