shutterstock_685265023.jpeg (shutterstock_685265023.webp)The difference between state and federal laws and regulations can be difficult to parse, and labor laws are no exception. But whether you’re an employer in the state of Illinois or a worker who’s at risk for getting injured on the job, it’s important to have a grasp on where these laws come from, and which level of government is accountable for the workers’ compensation legislation that affects you.

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, we know how confusing and complicated workers’ compensation in Illinois can be for employers and workers alike. That’s why our knowledgeable workers’ compensation department is dedicated to helping you navigate the process. Can you guess whether these facts about workers’ compensation come from the state or federal level? Test your knowledge below:

Workers’ Comp is Required: State or Federal?

Answer: State

Not all states require employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their workers, but in Illinois, the law says it is absolutely essential. There are a few exceptions: business partners, corporate officers, members of limited liability companies and those who run a sole proprietorship may be exempt from this requirement. However, when all is said and done, 91% of the workforce in Illinois is covered by the Act which states that workers’ compensation insurance is not optional for business owners.

Specific Groups of Workers Are Protected: State or Federal?

Answer: Federal

While all employers in Illinois must provide workers’ compensation for their employees, certain types of workers are actually protected by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) located within the U.S. Department of Labor itself. Some of the specialized programs run out of the OWCP include:

  • Federal Employees’ Compensation Program: Protects federal workers and their dependents, offering coverage for wage replacement, medical treatment, rehabilitation, and more.
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Program: Provides compensation for workers who have become injured while working on the navigable waters of the United States.
  • Federal Black Lung Program: Provides compensation for coal miners who have been completely disabled by pneumoconiosis, also known as “black lung.”
  • Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program: Provides compensation for workers who have become ill as a result of working in or around nuclear materials.

Employers Who Do Not Obtain Workers’ Comp are Fined: State or Federal?

Answer: State

Since workers’ compensation is mandated by the state, the consequences for non-compliance must come from the state level as well. According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, “An employer that knowingly and willfully fails to obtain insurance may be fined up to $500 for every day of noncompliance, with a minimum fine of $10,000.” Failure to pay this penalty can even result in corporate officers becoming personally responsible for the fine. An interesting fact regarding the $7 million in fines collected in Illinois since 2006: all workers’ compensation-related fines are deposited in the Injured Workers' Benefit Fund, which goes toward compensating those workers who were not paid as a result of their employers’ noncompliance. 

Contact Barrington Orthopedic Specialists for Your Workers' Compensation Needs!

Understanding the differences between federal and state workers' compensation laws is crucial for both employers and employees in Illinois. While the state mandates that all employers provide workers' compensation insurance, certain specialized programs are overseen by the federal government. Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines and penalties at both the state and federal levels.

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, our workers' compensation services are designed to help both workers and employers navigate the workers’ compensation process as instructed by both state and federal guidelines. If you have questions regarding your compensation or the compensation your employees require, reach out to us!

Our workers' compensation department can be reached directly at (847) 285-4220, or by completing a Request an Appointment form on our website at

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between federal and state workers' compensation laws?

Federal law and state workers' compensation laws are two separate sets of legislation that govern the insurance coverage for employees who are injured on the job. While all employers in Illinois must provide workers' compensation, certain specialized programs fall under the oversight of the federal government.

Are independent contractors covered under Illinois workers' compensation laws?

No, independent contractors are not covered under Illinois workers' compensation laws. However, an independent contractor may choose to purchase insurance for themselves.

What types of injuries are covered under workers' compensation claims?

Workers' compensation coverage includes injury or illness that occurs while an employee is performing their job duties, whether it be a physical injury from an accident or an occupational disease. However, there may be certain exceptions and limitations depending on the state and type of employment.

Is it possible to purchase workers' compensation insurance for independent contractors?

Yes, while independent contractors are not typically covered under workers' compensation laws, they may choose to purchase their own insurance. This can provide coverage for any work-related injuries or illnesses they may experience while on the job. Employers should always clarify the terms of employment and insurance coverage with any independent contractors they hire.