It is not uncommon for some Illinois farmers to presume that they are exempt from carrying workers' compensation coverage. While that may be true in some cases, it not always true. During the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting in Chicago this year, Chris Hemenway who is a manager for workers' compensation claims with Country Financial presented a session to explain how the system works.
According to the Illinois Worker's Compensation Act there is an exemption for farmers, but that exemption is limited. Farmers who are not exempt under the Act must participate in the worker's comp program or face serious consequences if a worker files a claim. In many cases, claims can run from $30,000 to $150,000 or more. This money, as well as any fines and penalties, would have to come out of the farmer's pocket. In Illinois, the state can assess against uninsured employers (including farmers) between $500 and $2,500.
Whether or not a farmer can claim the exemption depends on the 400 day rule as set out by the Illinois Worker's Compensation Act. It states that if a farmer has less than 400 working days of labor in any quarter, that farmer is exempt. If the farmer hits the 400 day mark in any quarter of the prior year, the exemption is lost. Loss of the exemption means the farmer will then be treated as any other employer and will be required to carry workers' compensation coverage. It is important for farmers to understand that under the Act, part-time and seasonal workers also count toward the 400 days.
Source: The WJBC News, "Farmers have misconceptions about worker's compensation," Carrie Muehling, Dec. 10, 2011