In most states, workers’ compensation coverage is mandatory for most employers – but not so in Texas. Employers can either be “subscribers” or “non-subscribers” to the system.
Even though recent information says that 83% of Texas workers are covered under workers’ comp, many “big box” company stores are non-subscribers. That means that injured workers can’t rely on the usual worker’s comp system to provide their medical care and replacement wages. Instead, they have to rely on an alternative system of benefits.
What does this mean for you, if you’ve been injured?
Nonsubscribers take on the responsibility of providing their employees with alternative benefits in case of workplace injuries. These benefits are outlined in the employer’s company-sponsored benefit plan and can vary significantly from one employer to another. Some common elements of nonsubscriber benefit plans include medical coverage, wage replacement and rehabilitation services.
The primary difference between traditional workers’ compensation and nonsubscriber claims lies in how workplace injury disputes are resolved – including questions surrounding the legitimacy of a claim or the severity of an injured worker’s injuries or permanent disabilities. With workers’ comp, disputes are typically handled through a state-administered system and a formal, structured process. In the latter, they are often settled through negotiations, mediation or litigation.
It’s also important to note that injured employees covered under workers’ comp generally have that as their sole recourse (with some exceptions), while employees of nonsubscribers are able to sue.
Since the employer is directly responsible for allocating the benefits an injured worker receives, that can put the worker at a disadvantage – especially if the employer prioritizes their bottom line over employee care. As an injured worker, make sure that:
- You fully understand your rights under your employer’s system. Look at the employee handbook or whatever other documentation you receive about benefit plans for injured workers and make sure you read it carefully.
- You carefully document your injuries. Report your injury or illness to your supervisor or employee as soon as possible, and keep careful records of all the treatments you receive.
Finally, it may be wise to consider seeking legal assistance, particularly if you feel like your employer is not treating you fairly or that the benefits you receive are inadequate.