CRANSTON, RI — The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) and Office of the Attorney General are advising employers and workers to avoid a look-alike website offering information about workers’ compensation coverage because it’s often inaccurate, and if mistakenly relied upon as authoritative, could have negative consequences. Although it looks like an official state website, www.rhodeislandworkerscompensation.org actually is just advertising — the virtual “front door” of a for-profit legal referral business.
On most internet engine searches, www.rhodeislandworkerscompensation.org ranks high, appearing on a user’s first computer screen or mobile screen of results for “RI workers’ comp insurance” or variations thereof. On Google, however, because it’s a paid ad, the website can appear above the search results. This could lead to clicks and confusion for companies and consumers alike.
“The good news is that it doesn’t look like a fake website pretending to be a real one that’s trying to ‘phish’ confidential information out of visitors,” said DLT Director Scott Jensen. “The bad news is that it contains a lot of bad information. For example, it says that ‘With very few exceptions, all employees, no matter where in Rhode Island you work, whatever company you work for, you are covered by a…workers’ comp policy.’ From our work together on the Underground Economy and Misclassification Task Force, Attorney General Kilmartin and I know this is categorically false. Sometimes companies don’t have workers’ comp insurance, which can be catastrophic for workers.”
“Every Rhode Islander can get free guidance on whether or not they are eligible to file a workers’ comp claim and, if appropriate, how to file such a claim, directly through the Department of Labor and Training. There is no need to incur costs for advice — seeming incorrect advice — offered through a virtually-anonymous website,” said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.
The look-alike website has downloaded many of the required administrative forms from the DLT’s and Workers’ Compensation Court’s websites and is presenting them as its own resources under a sidebar titled “Helpful Links & Forms.” The first form listed is “DWC_01 Employer’s First Report of Injury” (FROI). Employers, however, should not fill out this paper form to submit it to their insurance company.
Since March 2015, FROIs and Subsequent Reports of Injury forms must be filed electronically through the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), a secure web clearinghouse connecting RI employers, insurance carriers, and DLT. Forms that are legal agreements still are filed on paper. In some situations, both a paper legal agreement and an electronic report are required for the same “claim event,” such as starting or stopping benefits.
Following are some of the look-alike website’s most serious mistakes, with links to the accurate information found on DLT’s site:
- Claim: “If you or a loved one is injured on the job, you are entitled to Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation benefits, regardless of who is at fault.” Fact: Although workers’ comp is a form of no-fault insurance designed to help employees injured at work pay for medical expenses and make up lost wages, an employer’s insurance carrier is not going to pay a claim for an accident resulting from, for example, an employee drinking on the job. Click here for detailed injured worker information.
- Claim: “If you suffer an injury at work, it is basically always covered by insurance and considered a valid claim.” Fact: Wrong. As the drinking-on-the-job example cited above shows, a worker’s judgment and decision-making factor into whether a claim is paid or not. Also, sometimes workers fake injuries on the job. Not only would these workers not be paid workers’ comp benefits, but if investigated, prosecuted, and convicted of fraud. They also could pay criminal penalties of up to $50,000. Click here for information on workers’ comp fraud. And as Director Jensen stated above, not all employers carry workers’ compensation coverage, which can have tragic consequences for workers. There are civil and administrative penalties that can be imposed for each day of noncompliance. To report employers not carrying workers’ comp coverage, click here.
- Claim: “For a work-related injury, you are eligible for weekly wages for any of the injuries listed below: Injuries caused during breaks, lunch hours, and work-sponsored activities (such as a company picnic, group exercise activities)…” Fact: If during a lunch break, an employee were to leave the workplace and drive to a restaurant where he is injured after slipping and falling, he would not be eligible for weekly workers’ comp benefits. No-fault insurance does not mean there are no rules or that coverage is universal.
- Claim: Under the “Do I have a Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Claim?” section, it states, “If a Rhode Island Employee is injured on the job due to physical injury, he or she typically fills out a form at work that starts a…claim.” Under its “Begin the Claims Process” section, it says: “Contact us and complete a claim form. No matter how your employer learns of the incident, it must offer you a claim form immediately. Until this claim form is completed, the employer has no obligation to provide you benefits. Make sure the claim form is filled out completely…” Fact: Workers have no part in filing a workers’ comp claim. This is the employers’ responsibility. Employers must notify their insurance company of an injury by electronically filing the First Report of Injury through the EDI, mentioned above. The insurance company must electronically report the injury to DLT within 10 days of an injury requiring medical treatment or preventing a worker from earning full wages for at least three days.
- Claim: “The best way to know is to call us…and speak with a Workers’ Compensation Claim Specialist.” Fact: The RI workers’ comp system is not nearly as adversarial as this website wants visitors to believe. Ninety percent of all claims are not contested and are handled administratively as a matter of protocol. If litigation results from a contested claim, the Workers’ Compensation Court exists to resolve disputes. If workers or employers have any questions about this essential and legally required insurance coverage, please call the Workers’ Comp Education Unit at DLT at 401-462-8100, option 1, or email DLT.WCEDCUnit@dlt.ri.gov.
Workers’ comp premiums are based on a company’s payroll. DLT finances the entire workers’ comp system using the net premiums collected by carriers, but by law, three different agencies handle aspects of workers’ compensation in Rhode Island:
- The Department of Business Regulation issues licenses for insurers and adjusters.
- The independent Workers’ Compensation Court, headed by Chief Judge Robert M. Ferrieri, resolves disputes.
- DLT’s Workers’ Compensation division records legal agreements relating to claims and insurance coverage, compiles statistical information about injuries and costs, educates employers and employees about their legal obligations and ensures compliance, investigates allegations of fraud involving either employers or workers, and offers physical and vocational rehabilitation services for injured workers through its one-of-a-kind John E. Donley Rehabilitation Center.
ABOUT DLT: The RI Department of Labor and Training offers employment services, educational services and economic opportunities to both individuals and employers. DLT protects Rhode Island’s workforce by enforcing labor laws, prevailing wage rates and workplace health and safety standards. The department also provides temporary income support to unemployed and temporarily disabled workers. For more information, please call the RI Department of Labor and Training at (401) 462-8000 or visit the web site at www.dlt.ri.gov.