What Are The Federal Laws Regarding Worker’s Compensation?

Some workers are not covered by state workers’ compensation laws but are covered by federal laws relating to particular classes of workers or work-related injury. These laws are:

  • The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) provides workers’ compensation for nonmilitary federal employees. Most provisions are similar to state workers’ compensation programs. FECA provides compensation benefits to federal civilian employees for work-related injuries or illnesses and to their surviving dependents, if work-related injury or illness results in employee death. The Department of Labor administers FECA through 12 Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). The OWCP district offices make determinations about claims by injured workers and pay benefits. The costs of the benefits are charged back to the agency for which the employee worked when injured.
  • The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) is not actually a workers’ compensation program. Compensation is not awarded automatically like workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, it provides that railroads engaged in interstate commerce are liable for injuries to their employees that are caused by the employers’ negligence. As Justice William Douglas of the United States Supreme Court pointed out in one decision, “the FELA was designed to put on the railroad industry some of the costs of the legs, arms, eyes, and lives which it consumed in its operation.” However, under FELA, railroad employers were not liable for all their workers’ injuries, just those caused by the employer’s negligence. The compensation provided to qualified workers, however, is usually many times greater than that provided by state workers’ compensation programs.
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides workers’ compensation to specified employees of private maritime employers. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides employment-injury and occupational-disease protection to workers who are injured or contract occupational diseases occurring on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas, and for certain other classes of workers covered by extensions of the Act. These benefits are usually paid through an authorized insurance carrier or, in instances when the employer is allowed to be self-insured, directly by the employer. In some specific circumstances, benefits are paid from a special fund administered directly by the Division of Longshore Compensation.
  • The Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA) provides compensation to miners suffering from black lung disease (pneumoconiosis). Black lung benefits are monthly payments to, and medical treatment for, coal miners totally disabled from the disease due to their employment in or around United States coalmines. The BLBA also provides for augmented payments to miners based on the number of their dependents, and to certain survivors of the miners who died due to, or were totally disabled from, pneumoconiosis. Coalmine operators pay an excise tax, based on their operation’s tonnage and price of coal sold, to support the payments of black lung benefits and the cost of program administration. In addition, when determined that they were the actual employers for specific workers, operators provide insurance, either through private carriers or on their own, to make benefit payments to those eligible workers.