In Idaho, most employers, whether the employer is private or public, are subject to worker’s compensation requirements for most employees. Generally, worker’s compensation insurance provides coverage to workers who are injured on the job. However, with summer time approaching and the hiring of summer interns, an employer may wonder if the intern is a “causal employee” and perhaps exempt from the employer’s worker’s compensation coverage.
One consideration to take into account in “classifying” a student intern for worker’s compensation purposes is whether the intern is paid or not. If a student is paid in an employment capacity, the student should be covered by the employer’s workers’ compensation policy. If a student is unpaid or receives a stipend, it is highly advisable for an employer to obtain a rider to its existing workers’ compensation policy to cover the intern.
Another possibility is that the intern may actually be enrolled in the public school districts or public institutions of higher education during the internship and receive academic credit as a part of an unpaid internship. In that circumstance, the intern, while participating in the school’s work experience program, may be covered by the school district’s policy or by the Idaho higher education worker’s compensation policy.
Obviously, the risk of not ensuring worker’s compensation coverage for an intern either through the employer or the school is a significant risk that should not be taken lightly by anyone considering offering an internship.
Investigating worker’s compensation for an intern is something that should be done well in advance of the start of an internship. If the employer is providing worker’s compensation coverage, it is critical that such coverage is in place on the intern’s first day.
If after carefully investigating who is covering the intern for worker’s compensation insurance, to the extent that it is not the employer, this should be discussed with the intern at the beginning of the internship. Having such a discussion after the intern suffers an injury is not the time for such a discussion.
INSIGHTS FOR EMPLOYERS
- Start early to investigate and secure necessary coverage.
- Communicate to the intern who is covering him or her.
Please contact a Gjording Fouser lawyer at 208.336.9777 if you would like any additional information about this topic or any other employment issues facing your company.