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Catherwood Library

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Question of the Month

From the Catherwood Library reference librarians

March 2007

PLEASE NOTE: The Reference Question of the Month is kept current only during the month for which it was written. Archived questions will not be updated, and over time may contain inaccurate information or broken web links. We provide archived questions as a service, since much of the information will remain accurate and of continued interest to the ILR community.

Question: I've looked everywhere, but can't find the Workers' Compensation law.  Where is it, what is it, and am I covered?

Answer: Workers' Compensation laws are designed to provide workers injured on the job with medical care and disability income, they also provide benefits for dependents of workers who are killed by work-related accidents or diseases. Workers' Compensation protects both the worker and the employer, who gains by limits placed on liability and monies distributed. For an extended examination of the history of Workers' Compensation in the U.S. read the article Workers' Compensation by Price Fishback, part of the EH.Net Encyclopedia of Economic and Business History.

The Cornell University Legal Information Institute provides the most comprehensive legal overview of United States Workers' Compensation legislation, with links to federal and state laws and regulations as well as related U.S. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions: LII/Workers Compensation. gives basic overviews of Workers' Compensation for workers and employers: FindLaw/Workers' Compensation.

In the United States, most workers are covered by Workers' Compensation legislation enacted by state legislatures. The U.S. Dept. of Labor has compiled a set of 20 tables on various state law provisions (note that the department will not be updating these tables, referring users to their individual state offices): State Workers' Compensation Laws, List of Benefit Tables.

Federal legislation covers only federal employees or workers employed in certain aspects of interstate commerce (ex., railroad workers). Information on these programs can be found on the web site of the U.S. Office of Workers' Compensation Programs.

In the absence of up-to-date coverage of state workers’ compensation laws and programs, several organizations have filled the gap. The North Carolina Industrial Commission has compiled a directory of All 50 States' and D.C.'s Home Pages and Workers' Compensation Agencies., a commercial website supported by advertising and memberships, has indexes to state laws and forms, as well as a free newsletter:

If you become confused by any of the technical terms used in the Workers' Compensation field, a Workers' Compensation Glossary can be found on the WCLeader web site (another informational commercial web site).

Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, published by Matthew Bender, is a looseleaf legal treatise, useful to practitioners in the field. It can be found in legal libraries, such as the CU Law Library.

New York State

  • The text of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Laws and Regulations can be found on the NYS Workers Compensation Board web site: Laws.
  • The NYS Workers' Compensation Board web site also provides Resources for the Injured Worker (ex.: "What To Do If You Are Injured On The Job", "Listing of Licensed Representatives"), Resources for Employers (ex.: Employer’s Handbook) and current state news (at the time this is being written, the NYS Workers' Compensation system is on the verge of change): NYS Workers' Compensation Board.
  • The New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), an organization that provides information and technical assistance to unions and workers, has made workers' compensation one of its priorities and provides links to a number of resources on its Workers Compensation Index Page.


  • The National Academy of Social Insurance compiles conference proceedings and state briefs on current trends for Workers' Compensation: Workers' Compensation Results.
  • Workers' Compensation programs have become controversial topics in many states, attacked by both politicians and workers' advocates. Studies of state systems and proposals for reform can be found on the Internet by using the following key words with Google or a comparable search engine: "workers' compensation" study (and optionally the name of the target state).

Finally, you can find out whether you are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, and whether your coverage comes under the state board or a federal board, by asking your employer. This type of insurance is obtained by the employer, not the individual. 


— Researched by Donna Schulman