The state of Georgia requires most employers with three or more full-time, part-time or seasonal employees to offer workers’ comp benefits. Any business found in non-compliance with coverage requirements faces civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation as well as possible prison time. Some companies in Georgia seem to think that workers’ compensation insurance policies are elective and are deciding that they don’t need to cover their employees in case of on the job injury. Thankfully, the state of Georgia disagrees, and it is equipping itself to do battle against those companies that fall short on obligations to their workers.
Formerly forced to rely on complaints and drop-in inspections, workers’ compensation inspectors are finding that the digital age is a boon to them. Since the beginning of 2012 those Georgia inspectors, with the help of computers, have caught up with 538 businesses that have no workers’ comp policies in place. As a result, approximately $480,000 in fines has been levied against the companies, who will pay a total of $1.2 million in premiums to come into compliance and cover their 2,700 employees. And these are just the ones that have been caught!
It only took four compliance officers and four inspectors to find these violators, according to Richard Thompson, chairman of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Previously a big impediment to inspectors doing their jobs was the time it took to do drop-in visits to meet with business owners and make physical inspections of their records. With the new assistance of the databases they reference, an inspector can check up on a potential violator from a laptop while sitting in his vehicle. This online research into who is paying premiums and who is not yields information on as many as twelve businesses in the time that it used to take to do one on-site check.
“That’s a time saver. We don’t have to waste our time going into the business. We’re more interested in knowing which businesses don’t have insurance,” said Stan Bexley, director of enforcement. At the end of the year, his department will check former violators in the database to make sure they are still providing the coverage that they were forced to purchase for their workers.
In case you were wondering who the most frequent violators are, they tend to be restaurants, retail stores, and small construction companies have the worst track records for noncompliance, so they are checked with a greater frequency than other types of businesses. My personal experience is that Nigerian-owned moving companies tend to shirk getting “comp” insurance, but I’ve also seen a few restaurants do the same.
The state is making it easier for citizens to remain vigilant as well. Georgia now has a website that enables workers to check an employer’s workers’ comp coverage. If the company proves to have no insurance, the website then instructs the user on how to report a violation.
If you need help from an Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney, give me a call at 404-354-5432, and we can discuss getting to work on your claim, insurance or not!