Help Wanted: Workers' comp for part-timers

Does a small business owner need to carry Does a small business owner need to carry workers compensation insurance on part-time employees and family members? The experts say the answer is yes, and maybe. Photo Credit: iStock

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Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues. ...

DEAR CARRIE: I own a small business. I have a part-time employee who works just two hours a day, four days a week. Do I have to obtain workers' compensation insurance for her? And do I have to obtain it for my wife and daughter, who both work in the business part-time? -- Need Coverage?

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DEAR NEED: "Yes," to the first question and "maybe" to the second, depending on your relatives' role in the business, according to the New York State Workers' Compensation Board.

In general though, "Any for-profit business in New York with employees must carry workers' compensation insurance," said Joseph Cavalcante, a board spokesman.

So if a family member is considered an employee, the person has to be covered. If your business is a sole proprietorship, or a one-person corporation and you own all the shares and hold all the corporate offices, then your wife and daughter would be considered employees and you must obtain workers' compensation insurance for them, Cavalcante said.

Here's an exception: If the business is a two-person corporation and you and your wife, for example, own all the shares and hold all the corporate offices, then your daughter, but not your wife, would be considered an employee and must be covered under your workers' compensation insurance, Cavalcante said.

Besides the ownership issue, "there is no exemption from workers' compensation insurance for family members, except possibly on family farms," Cavalcante said.

He advises business owners to shop around and get multiple quotes before buying workers' comp insurance. And owners should consider including themselves on a policy, he said.

DEAR CARRIE: I was assigned to work on a special project for several weeks, and my boss generously paid me for an extra 7.5 hours a day to get my regular work done even though I didn't always work the full 7.5 hours. That resulted in a lot of overtime for me since I was an hourly worker.

During the holidays, however, I had two days off and I didn't get the extra 7.5 hours for those days. But I thought the paid time off would figure into my overtime calculations. But they didn't, and I was paid more straight time than I expected. Was this both cheap and illegal on my company's part? -- OT Beef

DEAR OT: You are staring that proverbial gift horse in the mouth. Your company paid you for an extra 7.5 hours each day even when you didn't work that long. So it gave you more than the law required.

As for the overtime, your employer hewed to the letter of the law: Paid time off doesn't have to be included in the count toward overtime. That's because overtime, which kicks in after 40 hours in a workweek, is based on hours worked, not hours granted as part of a benefit.

DEAR READERS: Last week Help Wanted answered a question from "Forced Lunch," who protested having to take an hour lunch, because she would rather skip it and leave early. She got no sympathy from one reader who believes the woman is missing a key point:

"Please tell Forced Lunch that she's lucky she gets an hour! I've been working in a school as a teacher aide for 28 years. We work six hours and get 30 minutes. By the time we go to the bathroom and wash our hands, we actually get 20. The rest of the school, including the children, get 50 minutes! It wasn't always like this, but the administrators now feel that they need to get all they can out of us low-wage workers!"

For more on who's covered under New York State workers' compensation law go to: http://bit.ly/14Oe7dd. For more on federal overtime regulations go to http://1.usa.gov/SWzvZo.

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