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Who is Not Covered by Workers’ Compensation in California?


Workers’ compensation coverage is an employee right in most of the United States, but workers’ compensation systems are not uniform across the nation. If you look into state workers’ compensation laws, you will find differences in each system. One of the ways in which state workers’ compensation laws differ the most is in their definition of who is covered — and who is not covered. Many state systems have specific exclusions to who is able to receive workers’ compensation benefits in their state.

In California, the state workers’ compensation laws exclude people in certain roles, or people whose jobs are subject to atypical employment terms. The exclusions are outlined in the California Labor Code, Division 4, Part 1, Chapter 2, Section 3352.

Workers Employed by Family Members (In Some Cases)

Although working for a family business is recognized as legitimate employment in most cases, there are other instances in which people employed by their family members are excluded from the workers’ compensation system.

An example of this is in domestic employment scenarios (housekeepers, cooks, etc.). Domestic employees do qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, but not if they are related to their employer.

People Who Work for Aid

California state law denies workers’ compensation coverage for people who work for aid instead of wages. For example, a person who works for an employer in exchange for housing would likely not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in California. Specifically, the Labor Code excludes “A person performing services in return for aid or sustenance only, received from any religious, charitable, or relief organization.”

Some Volunteers

The state of California allows most people who work for an employer to recover workers’ compensation benefits. However, a person who is not earning wages often does not qualify. In addition to those who work for “aid or sustenance,” the law excludes people who volunteer “at or for a recreational camp, hut, or lodge operated by a nonprofit organization” and “a person performing voluntary service as a ski patrolman,” as well as others. Although some of these people may earn stipends for meals, travel, and lodging, they do not qualify as wage earners and are not eligible for workers’ compensation in California.

Other Employees

Some of the exceptions to workers’ compensation laws in California are broad categories which include a variety of different roles, but there are other exceptions that explicitly exclude specific roles.

The California workers’ compensation system excludes:

  • Deputy sheriffs
  • Deputy clerks
  • “A student participating as an athlete in amateur sporting events”
  • Amateur sports officials
  • “A person employed by a ski lift operator” (if they are injured while skiing recreationally)

If you are unsure about your right to recover workers’ compensation, contact Smolich and Smolich. We can advise you on your rights, and represent you throughout your claim process.

To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys, send us a message or call (916) 571-0400.