Workers’ compensation laws are designed to protect employees who are injured on the job. Homeowners are generally not considered employers, but they can have a non-business exposure for domestic workers subject to workers’ compensation law and tort law.
If a homeowner employs someone for more than 26 hours per week on a regular basis, the homeowner must obtain workers’ compensation insurance. Domestic employees can include chauffeurs, nannies, babysitters, au pairs, maids, cooks, housekeepers, laundry workers, butlers, gardeners, and companions.
Some homeowners want to protect employees who work for them less than 26 hours per week. They can do this by purchasing workers’ compensation insurance.
Domestic workers are classified for rating purposes based on whether they work more or less than 26 hours per week. For rating purposes, the hours worked by occasional employees are totaled and a per-person charge is assessed for every 26 hours worked, along with an additional per-person charge for any remaining hours.
If an employee who does not work more than 26 hours per week is injured on the job, that person is not protected by workers’ compensation law but can sue for injury damages. The outcome for the employee is much less certain with a lawsuit than it is under workers’ compensation law. The worker will need to prove that a wrong was committed against him or her. Liability coverage of a homeowners insurance policy will provide defense against a lawsuit if it is not related to a business activity. If it is related to a business activity, a workers’ compensation policy would be needed.
The state of Connecticut and the federal government have laws related to the employment of minors. The Connecticut Department of Labor publishes a free brochure called Checklist for the Employment of Minors.
Federal law prohibits the use of power-driven machinery, including lawn mowers, by minors under the age of 16. Connecticut does not have a restriction on the use of a lawn mower by a minor, unless it is a riding reel lawn mower, but the federal law applies. Homeowners should not hire minors under 16 to mow their lawns.