Workers Comp fines 88-year-old $5K over her in-home nurses

Workers Comp Fines

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – An 88-year-old woman from Palmyra just got fined $5,000 because the state says she doesn’t have a workers comp policy for her in-home nurses.

The family of Hazel Schwartz thought this must be a mistake. But the New York State Workers Compensation Bureau says it’s real and they lay the blame on Hazel because she didn’t check a box.

More on that in a moment.

When her husband of seven decades went to a nursing home two years ago, Hazel started using their long term care insurance to hire two nurses to come to her home.

Last week, the Workers Comp Bureau sent her a letter and it fineD her $5,000 because she doesn’t have a workers comp policy.

Brean: “Have you ever been told that you need to contribute to Workers Comp or pay Workers Comp?”
Randy Schwartz, Hazel Schwartz’ son: “No.”
Brean: “Never?”
Randy: “No.”

State rules say workers comp is required if a person works in a home for 40 hours a week or more.

“Once a week I get an email to approve the hours,” said Val Schwartz, Hazel’s daughter in law.
Val said the nurses usually work 15 hours a week combined.

Brean: “Do they every get over 40 hours?”
Val: “No never.”

MedAmerica is the insurance provider for Hazel’s long term care insurance. In an email, it told me “We’re not involved in these direct employment relationships.”

In New York, there are 210,000 in-home care aides working every day.

Randy says $5,000 is more than his mother pays the nurses.

Randy: “By the time they take taxes out of her and if she had to get workers comp, it would cost more than what the aides are making.”
Brean: “So what you’re saying is the total amount of money your mom would have to pay in taxes and workers comp would exceed the money she pays the nurses?”

Randy: “Exactly.”

Workers comp says it got notified of Hazel employing nurses in the fall. We still don’t know how that happened.

The bureau says they sent her a letter with a 30-day deadline to get a workers comp policy. The bureau says the letter included a box to check if the home employees worked under 40 hours. Hazel’s family told me they don’t recall the letter or any instruction to check a box. So the box didn’t get checked.

As a result, Workers Comp started fining Hazel $500 every two weeks. And now it stands at $5,000.