What benefits are you entitled to if you work for a franchise of a larger corporation?
Whether you’re searching for a job or are injured at a job you already have, the ownership structure of your employer is something you’re not likely to spend much time thinking about. However, if you are injured at work, these details can have an impact on your rights and financial wellbeing.
Whether or not your company operates under a franchise model can impact the workers’ compensation that you are owed following a workplace injury. Here are some of the questions you should be asking, and the facts you need to know.
What is workers’ compensation insurance?
Workers’ compensation law (often shortened to “workers’ comp”) is an insurance policy that most businesses in Georgia with 3 or more employees are required to have. Workers’ compensation provides financial support to employees when they are injured on the job.
Worker’s compensation works a little differently than many other insurance policies. The most critical distinction is that workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means you are entitled to compensation for injuries during the course of your employment regardless of whether or not you were at fault.
Which state’s laws apply: the state where the franchise is located or the state where it’s headquartered?
Workers’ compensation laws differ state-by-state, so knowing which laws apply to your company is important. In the case of franchises, this question can become blurry because franchises are typically large companies that are headquartered out-of-state (most commonly in Delaware due to their tax-friendly incentives). Thus, the local burger chain down the road might be operated and managed by a local businessperson, but the larger company behind it could be in another state.
So, which law controls in workers’ compensation cases?
For years, Georgia law had been somewhat unclear as to what control and status a corporation had over individual franchises. However, this was clarified in 2012 by Georgia House Bill 548. This bill made it clear that under no circumstances would a franchisee (the store owner) be considered an employee of the franchisor (the larger corporate company.)
What does this mean for Georgia employees?
The passing of House Bill 548 made individual stores more legally independent. Because the individual employees and business owners were not employees of the larger corporate entity, Georgia law now clearly applies to franchises in the state. The law in the state where the franchise headquarters is located does not control.
In other words:
For purposes of workers’ compensation law, franchises are treated much like any other small business in Georgia.
Who’s responsible for obtaining workers’ compensation insurance: the franchise owner or the franchisee?
Workers’ compensation insurance is generally the responsibility of the franchise owner, not the franchisee. Whoever owns the store or restaurant that employs you is responsible for ensuring that the proper workers’ compensation insurance is provided.
In short, they are responsible for making sure you have the protection you deserve under Georgia law.
What should you do if you’re injured at a franchised business
Following an injury at work, you may experience fear and confusion. This is understandable. However, it may ease your worries to know that Georgia law is generally worker-focused when it comes to workers’ compensation for employees of franchised businesses.
If you were hurt at work, here is what you should keep in mind:
Fault doesn’t matter
You are owed workers’ compensation whether the injury was your fault or not. In the eyes of the law, the only question is whether the injury occurred during the course and scope of your employment. While we don’t recommend admitting fault for an accident or illness, this should ultimately have no bearing on your benefits. Don’t hesitate to file a workers’ compensation claim simply because you contributed to the accident.
Timing is important
Timing can be a critical aspect of a workers’ compensation claim. In Georgia, you are required to notify your employer within 30 days of the injury occurring. However, you shouldn’t even wait that long. As soon as possible, report the injury to your employer. Evidence and documentation can become increasingly difficult to find as time passes.
Who you talk to matters
You cannot simply report a workers’ compensation claim to anyone within your business. If you are unsure, ask your manager or direct supervisor. Often, they can walk you through the process of filing the claim and get you in touch with the right person.
Be specific and document everything
In addition to timing, details matter. Soon after your injury, make sure to document as much information as possible. What parts of your body are injured? What time did the injury occur? What events led up to the injury? These factors can have a big impact on your compensation and the processing of your claim.
Write down as much information as possible and give copies to your employer while filing the claim. Always ensure that you get a receipt of the claim from your employer, and copies of any documents they record or file.
You can speak with an attorney
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when making a worker’s compensation claim is that it’s fully within your rights to speak with a qualified attorney who has experience in Georgia workers’ compensation laws. Navigating the nuances and procedures of a work injury claim can be tricky. Having an advocate by your side can make a significant difference.
If you or a loved one are hurt at work, don’t feel like you have to handle the situation alone. Georgia law is designed to protect employees who are injured at work, whether they work for a franchise or any other business. Make sure you get the support you are owed.