Are All Employers Required to Carry Workers’ Comp Insurance?

workers comp

Workers’ comp insurance provides protection for employees who are hurt on the job and for employers who avoid litigation in court. However, it surprises many to learn that not all employers in Wisconsin are required to carry workers’ compensation coverage for their employees.

At Gillick, Wicht, Gillick & Graf in Wisconsin, our experienced and skilled Milwaukee workers’ compensation lawyers are here to explain when an employer may not need to carry this type of coverage and what your legal options are after being hurt at work. For more information, call or contact our office today to schedule a consultation of your case.

Who Must Carry Workers’ Compensation?

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development details when an employer must carry workers’ comp insurance for their employees. Under state law, an employer is mandated to keep workers’ compensation coverage if any of the following applies to the business:

  • The company employs three or more full- or part-time employees.
  • Employ one or more full- or part-time employees who have been paid combined gross wages of $500 or more in any calendar quarter for work performed at one or more locations in Wisconsin.
  • If you are a farmer who employs 6 or more workers on the same day for any twenty days during the calendar year, which is defined as January through December.

In addition, an out-of-state employer must carry Wisconsin workers’ compensation insurance if they have workers operating in the state. Employers with three or more employees are required to get workers’ compensation coverage immediately. For employers who paid $500 or more in a calendar quarter, workers’ compensation benefits must be enacted by the tenth day or the next calendar quarter, and farmers must have coverage by the tenth day after the twentieth day of employment.

Exceptions for Workers’ Comp Insurance

While Wisconsin grants near-universal coverage under workers’ compensation, there are a few delineated exceptions. Employee exceptions for workers’ compensation include the following:

  • Domestic servants
  • Any person whose employment is not in the trade, business, profession, or occupation of the employer
  • Some farm employees (who are certain family members)
  • Volunteers, including volunteers of nonprofit organizations that receive money or items of value totaling less than ten dollars per week
  • Certain religious sect members
  • Employees of Native American tribal enterprises unless the tribe waives its sovereign immunity and voluntarily becomes subject to the Act
  • Real estate brokers, agents, and salespeople

Farm Employees

While a farmer falls under the requirement for workers’ compensation if they employ six or more employees on the same day for twenty days during a calendar year, there are exceptions for who is counted as an employee for these purposes. Certain lineal and collateral relatives are not counted towards the total count of employees so long as the farm operation is structured as anything but a true corporation:

  • Parent
  • Child
  • Sibling
  • Spouse
  • Sister- or Brother-in-law
  • Son- or Daughter-in-law
  • Mother- or Father-in-law


Wisconsin has loosely defined volunteers as people who provide services of their own free will on behalf of an organization or institution that does not expect or receive payment for those services. As such, they are not considered an employee and are not covered under workers’ compensation, even if they are injured while performing volunteer services. This applies even if a volunteer receives nominal payments or other items of value that equal ten dollars or less per week unless the non-profit organization chooses to elect to cover the volunteer under a workers’ compensation policy.

Religious Sect Members

Employers are also allowed to request an exemption for workers who belong to specific religious sects, such as the Amish or Mennonites, whose teachings and tenets prohibit accepting benefits like workers’ compensation for death, disability, old age, or retirement. This also applies if the sect opposes payments being made towards the cost of medical care, including federal social security benefits. In order to apply for the religious sect exception, the following requirements must be met:

  • The employer applies for the exemption.
  • The sect has a long-standing history of 25 years or more of providing for its members who have work-related injuries with a standard of living and medical treatment that are reasonable when compared to the general standard of living and medical treatment for members of the religious sect.
  • The worker waives his or her rights to worker’s compensation and requests an exemption.
  • The religious sect agrees to pay benefits at a reasonable standard of living and medical treatment when compared to the general standards for members of the sect.

Native American Tribal Enterprises

Native American tribal enterprises, including casinos, fall under the scope of the tribe that is considered a sovereign nation and therefore covered by sovereign immunity. Because the state of Wisconsin has no jurisdiction over enterprises that fall under the tribe, workers’ compensation requirements do not apply even if the enterprise is located within the state boundaries of Wisconsin. However, a tribal enterprise has the ability to waive its sovereign immunity and purchase a workers’ compensation policy, which then subscribes to the rest of the regulations regarding workers’ compensation coverage.

Business Entities

In addition to certain types of employees, certain business entities may also be exempt from workers’ compensation insurance. Sole proprietors, partners, and members of a limited liability company are exempt from maintaining workers’ compensation insurance. However, employees of these business entities may be required to have coverage if they meet the basic requirements. Corporate officers in Wisconsin are also considered employees and are therefore required to participate in workers’ compensation coverage. Business owners of the qualified exceptions can also elect to be included in a workers’ compensation policy if they have one for their employees. To learn more, talk to our office today.

Call or Contact Our Milwaukee Workers’ Comp Lawyers Now

Do you have more questions about who is required to have workers’ comp insurance in Wisconsin? If so, the experienced lawyers at Gillick, Wicht, Gillick & Graf are here to help. Call the office to speak with a Milwaukee workers’ compensation attorney today during a free consultation of your case.

Contact Gillick Wicht Gillick & Graf No Fee Unless We Win