Do you employ a nanny in Washington, DC?  If so, you might be legally required to get workers’ compensation insurance, or workers’ comp for short.  Here’s what you need to know.

What It Is

 Workers’ comp is simply a type of insurance.  It replaces wages and provides medical benefits to an employee, such as a nanny, who suffers a job-related injury or illness.  In exchange for these benefits, the employee typically loses the right to sue his or her employer for causing or contributing to those injuries.

Each state, as well as DC, has its own rules for workers’ comp.

When You Need It

If your nanny works or is expected to work 240 hours or more in any calendar quarter (e.g., January through March), you are required by DC law to provide workers’ comp covering him or her. That’s roughly 20 hours of work per week.

Even if your nanny works less, however, you can still purchase a workers’ comp policy. Because many nannies are injured on the job, it’s often a good idea to do so.

If you have any questions about the rules, contact an employment attorney or call the DC Department of Employment Services, Office of Workers’ Compensation at (202) 671-1000.

Where You Can Get It

You have a couple options.

First, contact your homeowner’s or umbrella insurer and ask if you have coverage for domestic employees such as a nanny. If you don’t have coverage, ask if a ‘rider’ covering your nanny can be added to your policy.

Second, you can buy a freestanding policy.   There are dozens of insurance companies (such as Travelers, Chubb, State Farm, and Hartford Mutual) providing workers’ comp for DC employers.  Call several insurers to compare quotes, and be prepared to pay more than having a rider added to your homeowner’s policy.

Job Injury.  Now What?

It goes without saying, but if your nanny suffers a work-related injury or illness, see that he or she seeks medical attention as soon as possible. Don’t delay, or the injury might worsen.

Next, assuming you obtained the required workers’ comp coverage, contact both the DC Department of Employment Services and your insurer.  There are strict timelines, so report the injury or illness immediately.

No Workers’ Comp?  Not good.

If your nanny suffers a work-related injury or illness and you don’t have workers’ comp, you might be on the hook for your nanny’s medical bills and lost wages.  You also might be fined for failing to comply with DC law.

If you find yourself in this situation, contact an employment attorney.

My Injured Nanny Can’t Work.  Can I Fire Her?

The short answer is maybe. And if you do, be careful!

It’s illegal to fire a nanny because he or she was injured and filed a workers’ comp claim.

You can, however, terminate an employee who can no longer perform essential job functions.  There are three caveats.  First, you must adequately document the injury and the job functions the nanny can no longer perform. Second, you must follow your nanny contract, if you have one in place.  Third, you might be legally required to reasonably accommodate your nanny.

This situation has many pitfalls, so be sure to contact an employment attorney for help.

DISCLAIMER: This post provides information only and not legal advice, and it is not a substitute for an attorney. If you need legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney.