Workers’ compensation, according to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, is insurance that provides cash benefits and/or medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job.
Employers—and, in the case of some co-op and condo boards, corporations that may not employ anyone—pay for workers’ comp insurance, and it’s not the workers who benefit. To understand why that is, we must look at the history of workers’ comp.
Origins in Labor Movement
Although there are attorneys, boards of attorneys, doctors, and courts of law devoted entirely to the subject, workers’ compensation laws were established in part to reduce the need for litigation.
“The origin was in Germany at the turn of the 20th century,” says John H. Geaney, a partner with the law firm of Capehart & Scratchard in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and a prolific author of material on the subject. “In America, workers’ comp took root later in the 20th century.”
Indeed, workers’ compensation—or workman’s comp, as it was known in those days when the workers were mostly men—was one of the many benefits earned by America’s Progressive Era labor organizations, for whom we celebrate Labor Day.