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Glossary of WCB Terms

Religious Organizations


Workers’ compensation insurance coverage is not required for a religious organization that only pays its clergy (including sextons), and/or teachers and/or individuals providing non-manual labor. (To be exempt the clergy must be performing only religious duties and the teachers must only be performing teaching duties.)

[Manual labor includes but is not limited to such tasks as filing; carrying materials such as pamphlets, binders, or books; cleaning such as dusting or vacuuming; playing musical instruments; moving furniture; shoveling snow; mowing lawns; and construction of any sort.]

Workers’ compensation insurance is also not required for persons receiving charitable aid from a religious or charitable institution (Section 501(c)(3) under the IRS tax code) who perform work in return for such aid and who are not under any express contract of hire, and certain persons receiving rehabilitation services in a sheltered workshop.

A religious organization must be a nonprofit (Section 501(c)(3) under the IRS tax code) and as such does not require New York State workers’ compensation insurance coverage as long as its members are volunteering their services on activities or enterprises that benefit only that religious organization. For example, volunteering in a religiously owned store — a store owned by the religious community itself, not someone who is a member of that religion. Another example is parishioners volunteering their services to build a picnic shelter for their church.

Volunteers cannot receive compensation including stipends, room and board, and other “perks” that have monetary value. Money used solely to offset expenses incurred while performing activities for the nonprofit is not counted as stipends.

If an enterprise is not owned by the religious organization itself, but instead is owned by an individual, partnership, corporation etc., then the enterprise must abide by the regular New York State coverage requirements for workers’ compensation insurance.

In other words, if someone owns a business, it doesn’t matter if he/she is Amish, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian Scientist, Hindu, Jehovah Witness, Jewish, Mennonite, Mormon, Muslim, Protestant or a member of any other religion, regular New York State coverage requirements for workers’ compensation and disability benefits insurance apply to that business. Further, the private business is NOT covered by either the church’s insurance or a declaration by the church that its members are self-insured. WCL §3 [18]