Who is covered by the Wisconsin Worker's Compensation Act (Act)?

Nearly all employers in Wisconsin are covered. This includes both public and private employers. There are a few classes of workers who are covered by the federal laws and are not covered by the Act.

Who is covered by the federal laws?

Employees of the federal government (such as postal workers, employees at a veteran's administration hospital, or members of the armed forces) are covered by federal laws. People who work on interstate railroads are covered by the Federal employers Liability Act. Seamen on navigable waters are covered by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, and people loading and unloading vessels are covered by the Longshoremen's and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act.

Are there any exceptions to the Worker's Compensation Act?

The only employee exceptions to the Wisconsin Worker's Compensation Act insurance requirement are domestic servants, some farm employees, volunteers, including volunteers of nonprofit organizations that receive money or other things of value totaling not more than $10.00 per week, and religious sect members that qualify and are certified for an exemption. Virtually all other workers and employers are subject to the Act. For a detailed explanation of these exceptions, please contact the Wisconsin Worker's Compensation Division, Bureau of Insurance Programs at (608) 266-1340.

Are employers required to purchase worker's compensation insurance?

The law requires that every employer subject to the Act must provide some way of assuring that it can pay benefits to its workers should they become injured. Most employers in Wisconsin provide this security by purchasing an insurance policy from a private insurance company. The insurance company then reports to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development that it is providing coverage for the employer.

Are there penalties for not obtaining worker's compensation insurance?

There are severe penalties for the failure of an employer to provide worker's compensation insurance coverage. First, if a worker is injured, the employer is personally liable, for uninsured benefit claims for which your employees are eligible.

Second, the Department of Workforce Development's, Worker's Compensation Division actively enforces the Act. If an uninsured employer fails to obtain insurance when required, the Department may order the uninsured employer to cease operations until the uninsured employer complies with the Wisconsin Worker's Compensation Act.

Where do I purchase worker's compensation insurance?

There are about 300 insurance companies licensed to write worker's compensation insurance in Wisconsin. Worker's compensation insurance is obtained through an insurance agent and/or an insurance company.

What if I cannot find worker's compensation insurance?

If your agent tries several insurance companies and cannot find coverage, your agent should submit an application to the Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau (Rating Bureau). The Rating Bureau acts as administrator and trustee of the Wisconsin Worker's Compensation Insurance Pool (Pool). The Pool is a risk-sharing plan created to provide worker's compensation insurance to any employer who is unable to obtain coverage in the open market and who is, in good faith, entitled to such insurance. For more information on the Pool, contact in writing the Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau, P.O. Box 3080, Milwaukee, WI 53201-3080 or call (262) 796-4540.

What is self-insurance?

Some employers who are financially sound (and usually quite large) are "self-insured." An employer can only be self-insured if it obtains permission from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). DWD requires employers to demonstrate a very sound financial condition in order to be self-insured.