The law is very clear on who has to provide workers' compensation coverage and other regulations when it comes to how businesses treat their employees. However, one California business that is purportedly owned by a religious organization apparently felt it did not need to provide some benefits such as workers' compensation to workers in a deli. A ruling handed down by the California Department of Industrial Relations may mean other religious organizations that own businesses and have employees may also have to comply.
According to news reports, a religious group was fined $14,000 for not complying with workers' compensation laws. It appealed the fine, arguing that it is a religious nonprofit group and therefore should be exempt from the state law. The group owns the deli shop in question along with other businesses that were also cited in the past for not providing required employment benefits, including not paying minimum wage to workers at another business.
A judge ruled that the businesses in question were all owned by individuals belonging to the religious order, but not legally owned by the religious order itself. The group says it plans to reorganize but it has also dropped an appeal. The quest for compliance began in 2010 when inspectors were told employees were actually volunteers in the deli.
While a case such as this can get convoluted when it comes to religious group exemptions, the ruling in this case made it clear that these particular California businesses must comply and provide workers' compensation benefits for employees. Anytime a worker is injured or becomes ill at work, workers' compensation protects everyone involved and may be needed for that individual worker to help pay for living expense, medical bills and cover lost wages. Compliance with state regulations is a must, and any worker concerned about their coverage should inquire about their benefits to be sure they are covered as the law requires.
Source: UTSanDiego.com, "Yellow Deli will reorganize to comply with state laws Page 1 of 2," Edward Sifuentes, March 17, 2013