Owners of a nightclub would like the state Supreme Court to hear their case and review the penalty they have received. They have been issued a penalty of over $1 million because they failed to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage at the time when the Station club in West Warwick burned down in 2003. There were 100 people killed in the fire and 4 were employees of the club. Over 200 people were injured.
The owners, who are brothers, are claiming that they were unaware of the need for workers’ comp insurance because all of their employees were part time. Court documents reveal that the brothers argued they did not flagrantly disregard the law, as it may appear, and that this is demonstrated by the fact that they owned another business together, one that had full time employees, and at that business they did have workers’ comp insurance.
But attorneys for the State Department of Labor and Training are arguing that the Rhode Island Supreme Court should not review the $1.066 million penalty, because it is apt, given the situation. One such attorney says that the brothers have already benefitted due to the nine year delay that has come with finalizing the penalty because interest has not been accruing during that time. He claims that the brothers did not make an attempt to compensate “their employees so grievously harmed." If they had made an effort to help take care of employees, there is a chance that the penalty would have been suspended altogether.
But the brother's attorney disagrees with this assertion. He says that the two did make an effort to compensate employees and made some “voluntary monthly payments" to families of the victims.
It is extremely important that both employers and employees understand the workers’ compensation laws in their state. The workers’ comp system is intended to protect both workers and their employers, but in order to be protected, employers need to participate in the system by purchasing insurance. If an employer fails to do so when it is legally required, this allows injured workers or their families to take civil action against them.
Workers’ comp laws are ever-changing, so staying on top of regulations can be difficult. If you have been injured in a workplace accident and have questions about the benefits to which you are entitled and how to obtain them, or about your employer’s liability, contact a workers’ compensation attorney right away. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can use their expertise to help navigate the process, make sure it goes smoothly, and will help you to get the compensation you deserve.
Ignorance does not automatically get an employer off the hook for workers’ comp coverage. It is their responsibility to know the law and be in compliance with it and workers have the right to receive benefits for injuries that are sustained on the job. If you have any questions about your rights you should contact an attorney immediately.