Worker’s Compensation for the Freelance Writing Business: The Rights and the Risks

A lot of businesses in the US employ freelance writers for the completion of short term projects so that they do not have to hire permanent employees. In current times, a large portion of the US workforce is working independently. According to a survey, more than 32% of the entire working population works independently and contributes more than $1.3 trillion to the country’s economy.

So who can be classified as a freelance writer?

  • Writers who pay their own taxes.
  • They do not employ anyone, but they can get professional help to complete their work.
  • They control their working hours and place of work.
  • They write for many clients.
  • They work on a short term basis with a client.
  • They negotiate their rates.

Hiring freelance workers can be legally complicated for a company, as far as benefits are concerned, especially on the aspect of workers’ compensation. A lot of companies follow intelligent business practice and offer workers’ compensation to freelance writers. However, many organizations do not feel that they need to cover writers who work as freelancers for the company. What they do not realize is that they can still be liable to cover claims made by freelance writers in case a writer meets with an accident in the workplace and suffers serious injuries. That is why it is wise for companies to include freelance writers in their workers’ comp policies.

What Does the Law Say?

Workers’ compensation, like any other business insurance, is governed by the state laws and varies between the states. Companies and freelance writers should check with the local laws to understand if workers’ compensation applies to a freelance writer. They must also check with the IRS rules to see if the freelance writer qualifies to get the same privileges as an employee.

In many states, writing a certain number of contributions for a company means that you must get the same benefits as an employee. In such a case, not only would a person be covered under benefits like workers’ compensation, but they must also be listed under the company’s payroll. Companies that fail to provide such benefits might be sued by the writer and incur heavy legal fees, fines, and compensations. If an employer fires a writer who had claimed for compensation, the writer can also sue the company for retaliation.

Differences Between Employed and Freelancer

A regular employee is one who gets a W-2 form at the end of a fiscal year. Recipients of the W-2 form means that their employer has workers’ compensation insurance and is liable to pay for expenses incurred due to a workplace injury. Most of the states make it mandatory for employers to have workers’ comp if they have a minimum number of employees. The numbers vary between 1 and 5. In a few states like Texas, employers are legally not required to have workers’ compensation.

On the other hand, a freelance writer who is not listed under employee payroll will receive a 1099 form. Legally self-employed workers may or may not be covered automatically under workers’ compensation of the company. However, a freelance writer who gets injured at the workplace should not presume that they can’t receive coverage. The writer must be able to prove that the circumstances of the injury and the nature of employment warrants that he or she be considered eligible for compensation.

When Should a Freelance Writer Get Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

In many cases, employers only hire freelance writers who have coverage for workers’ compensation. Writers who wish to get freelance jobs at these companies should get their own workers’ compensation insurance.

At times, a freelance writer does not have self coverage or coverage from the company, and the contract does not mention any terms related to workers’ compensation. In such situations, a writer who gets injured at the workplace can choose to either sue the company or negotiate a resolution of the matter. Depending on the seriousness of the injury, the company may decide that the legal cost of such a lawsuit can be much more than the compensation.

A freelance writer should always ensure that the contract mentions the terms and conditions related to workers’ compensation. Either the company should agree to cover the writer under their insurance coverage, or the writer should get self-insurance. In case a writer is injured without either of the coverages, even with legal proceedings against the employer, the writer can lose valuable time and work.

Additional tip: Many states like California and Massachusetts have workers’ compensation funds for people who do not have insurance, or cannot be covered by an employer.


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