Deciphering the workers’ compensation policy in Colorado can be confusing when it comes to student learning placements. MoKanSan spoke with Julie Yakes, Manager of the Self-Insurance & Coverage Enforcement Unit of the Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation, for more information. Much like the Secretary of State registration, being a participating institution with NC-SARA does not exempt you from this requirement.
The Colorado Revised Statute 8-40-302(7) states essentially that, if a student participating in a learning placement is a paid employee of the employer in Colorado, the employer pays the student worker’s compensation policy. If the internship is unpaid, however, the university is required to cover the student with workers’ compensation insurance. If the university does not wish to purchase or extend its own policy to cover the student, the university may negotiate with the worksite employer so that the employer agrees to cover the student on the employer’s policy. “The university must pay the employer a reasonable level of compensation for doing so,” Yakes said.
This ruling is applicable to all internships except student teaching. There is a specific exemption for student teachers: The student teacher, during his practice teaching in a school, shall be deemed an employee of the school district for the purpose of workers’ compensation and liability insurance as provided for other school employees (Title 22 Education 22-62-105).
If a student finds an internship site, but the company does not provide the worker’s comp policy, how should an institution proceed? “For paid internships, the employer must cover the student as the student is an employee of the employer,” Yakes said. “For unpaid interns, if the university does not provide coverage, some employers refuse to allow the student to perform the internship. Some will enter into an agreement with the university to provide coverage at the university’s expense.
The workers’ compensation insurance must be with a carrier that is licensed to write in Colorado and Colorado must be specifically endorsed on the policy. Yakes said there are about 500 carriers licensed to write in Colorado, so there are many options. The cost for the insurance, which can be obtained in a few days, depends on several factors.
“But the onus is on the university to provide the coverage one way or another,” she continued. “If the student isn’t covered and gets hurt, the claim would fall to the university. If the university is uninsured in Colorado, the claim would be subject to penalties for failing to insure. There hasn’t been a lot of litigation on this, but the two claims of which I am aware were filed against the university, although both were in-state schools with Colorado coverage so the uninsured aspect did not apply.”
Fines may be assessed in cases of non-compliance. “While we do not have any publications on fines,” Yakes said, “the first statute at issue is Colorado Revised Statute 8-43-409, which provides for fines for up to $20 per day for every day that an employer is uninsured in an initial violation, and $250-500 per day for subsequent violations. Also, Colorado Revised Statute 8-43-408 provides that in the event of a claim, an uninsured employer must pay a penalty equal to 25% of the indemnity benefits, and if that is not paid, an additional 25% penalty is assessed, for a potential total penalty equal to 50% of the indemnity benefits.”
For more information or clarification, Yakes can be reached at the Colorado Division of Worker’s Compensation at (303) 318-8639.
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