Public Employees and Workers’ Compensation

State and Local Employees

Each state’s laws on workers’ compensation determine whether or not the workers’ compensation covers a state or municipal employee. The type of employees that are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits and which are not is determined by the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

In most states, officials of the state are not entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, the definition of what an official is remains unclear. In general, an official is an individual who exercises to some extent the state’s sovereign power; thus, this person in not eligible to receive these benefits.

Police officers and fire fighters often become subject to the confusion of their eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits because they are usually not considered employees in the strictest sense, and neither will they be considered as officials. There are a lot of states that have resolved this issue by supplying specific provisions that will govern the workers’ compensation benefits requirements and rules concerning police officers and fire fighters.

Federal Employees

Federal employees generally do not receive from the state systems workers’ compensation benefits. There is a separate system for federal employees to claim benefits related to work-related injuries under the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA). Through FECA, a federal employee who has been disabled or killed because of injuries “sustained while in the performance of duty” will be able to recover benefits.

There are special types of employees may also be able to claim for federal workers’ compensation benefits through other federal acts such as:

  • Jones Act – provides for compensation for seamen who sustained work-related injuries.
  • Federal Employer’s Liability Act – for the benefit of employees who have been injured while they are performing their jobs involving interstate transportation such as railroad workers.
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act – provides similar benefits as in Jones Act to longshoremen and other employees involved in maritime activities on navigable waters.

Others Acts for those employees on public works projects and defense bases outside the United States:

  • Death on the High Seas Act
  • Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
  • Defense Base Act

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