What is a workers' compensation board?

Each state in the United States has its own workers’ compensation laws. The first comprehensive workers’ comp law was adopted by Wisconsin in 1911, with each state passing its own version over the next 40 years. These laws launched the creation of workers’ compensation boards.

What is the boards' role in state workers' comp laws and enforcement?

Workers’ comp insurance provides cash benefits and/or medical care for workers who are injured or become ill on the job. State workers’ comp boards protect the rights of employees and employers by promoting compliance with the law and ensuring the proper delivery of benefits to those who are eligible.

The conditions under which workers are entitled to compensation, the amount of benefits they may receive, and how long benefits will be provided all vary from state to state. When a claim is filed, weekly cash benefits and medical care are paid by the employer’s insurance carrier as directed by that state’s workers’ compensation board. If an employee or employer disagrees with the insurance provider’s decision on a workers’ comp claim, they can request that the claim be re-examined. If the claim is still disputed, either party can file an appeal with their state’s workers’ comp board. The board will review the case, investigate it further, and/or hold a hearing. Decisions can be appealed to the state court system.

What services does a workers' comp board provide?

In general, a workers’ comp board:

  • Educates stakeholders, including workers who may need help navigating the workers’ compensation system, about the board’s responsibilities
  • Monitors businesses to ensure they have appropriate workers’ comp coverage
  • Provides an appeals process to resolve disputes
  • Conducts hearings to ensure injured workers are provided the benefits they are entitled
  • Investigates complaints and other issues with medical providers
  • Monitors the performance of insurance carriers and third-party administrators
  • Establishes medical treatment guidelines to support physicians and the medical community in their efforts to treat patients.

While every state has an entity that oversees workers’ compensation, the names of the boards can vary. For example, in New Jersey, the Division of Workers’ Compensation is responsible for administering workers’ comp, while in Illinois, it’s overseen by a Workers’ Compensation Commission. Other names include Worker Compensation Board or Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a list of state workers’ comp agencies. To learn about the laws in your area, visit your state’s department site. To learn more about the laws that affect your business, you can view the state-by-state comparison of workers’ comp laws. This useful resource is maintained by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and provides links to each state agency.

Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As laws change regularly, you should refer to your state legislation and/or an advisor for specific legal counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workers’ compensation insurance or check your current rate in 3 minutes.

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