Common Small Business Questions

Business Administration

Construction contractor registration
Hiring employees
Independent contractors
Permits, licenses, and tax registrations

Claims and Audits

Audits
Injury claims
Paying medical expenses
Reporting injuries

Workers' Compensation

Can't pay workers' comp?
Delinquent premium payments
Estimating workers' comp costs
Workers' comp for owners

Workplace Rules and Regulations

Compliance training
Drug testing
Employee leave rules
Overtime pay
Paycheck deductions
Safe workplace requirements
Teen workers
Workplace posters

Construction Contractor Registration

Do I need to register as a construction contractor?

You must be a registered contractor if you do any of the following types of work or if you offer or submit a bid to:

  • Alter
  • Repair
  • Construct
  • Consult or superintend
  • Improve, move, wreck, or demolish
  • Develop residential property for sale
  • Add to or subtract from real property
  • Install cabinets, remove trees, or "flip" houses

More help with contractor registration

Learn the basics about being a contractor in Washington State.

Hiring Employees

I'm hiring employees for the first time. What do I need to do?

Existing business: Read Section 2 of the Grow chapter in the Washington Small Business Guide.

New business: Read Section 10 of the Start chapter in the Washington Small Business Guide.

Employer: Read Do I Need a Workers' Comp Account?

Independent Contractors

Can I just hire independent contractors? They're easier than employees

Careful! State and federal laws have strict requirements covering who qualifies as an independent contractor. You could be liable for workers' comp and unemployment claims.

For further information, read Section 2 of the Grow chapter in the Washington Small Business Guide.

More help with independent contractors

Questions you can ask yourself to find out if you are hiring employees or independent contractors can be found in Independent Contractor or Covered Worker? (F212-250-000) or in further detail within the Independent Contractor Guide (F101-063-000).

Permits, Licenses, and Tax Registrations

Which government permits, licenses, and tax registrations do I need?

Read the Start chapter of the Washington Small Business Guide. It will give you information and links tailored to your industry and location.

Get a customized guide sheet of necessary licenses using the Department of Revenue's Business Licensing Wizard.

Audits

What should I do to prepare for an L&I audit?

Visit Combating Fraud: Audit Docs for helpful resources on this topic.

Injury Claims

I have an injury claim. What do I do?

Use our employer's guide to injury claims to help you respond to a workplace injury claim.

If you need help, contact the claim manager for your claim. Their name and phone number will be on claim documents sent to you. You can also contact an L&I small business liaison at 1-800-987-0145.

My employee filed an injury claim. Does that mean my rates will go up?

Possibly. An employer's rates are affected if the claim becomes a compensable claim. A claim is compensable when L&I pays an injured worker for lost wages, a partial permanent disability payment (PPD), or a pension.

A claim that requires only medical treatment and not payments for missed work or a disability is considered non-compensable. If you have a claim-free discount, medical-only claims never count against your rates, regardless of the cost.

An employer may choose to keep an injured worker on full salary and benefits while the worker recovers from a workplace injury rather than have the worker receive L&I time-loss benefits. In some cases, this can be financially beneficial to an employer. Read more about managing a claim in the Employer's Return-to-Work Guide (F200-003-000).

Paying Medical Expenses

Can I pay for my injured worker's medical expenses?

No. By law, an employer can't pay for an injured worker's medical expenses associated with an on-the-job injury.

Reporting Injuries

As an employer, do I have to report or keep track of all workplace injuries?

All employers in Washington State are required to report any death or in-patient hospitalization of any employee within 8 hours of the incident occurring to L&I's Division of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH) at 1-800-423-7233. Non-hospitalized amputations or loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours of the incident. Learn more about reporting workplace injuries.

Beyond that, most employers are required to record workplace injuries and illnesses on an OSHA 300 log. Such information can be used to identify hazards and refine your workplace health and safety programs.

For a better understanding of state injury recordkeeping requirements, see the DOSH injury/illness recordkeeping decision tree.

Can't Pay Workers' Comp?

What do I do if I can't pay my workers' compensation bill?

L&I's Employer Assistance Program may be able to help. Call 1-800-301-1826 to be connected to a revenue agent who can assist you.

Even if you can't pay your quarterly report on time, always file your report on time to prevent L&I from estimating and collecting a higher estimated tax and contact your L&I account manager in advance if you know you will not be able to make your quarterly premium payment.

If you have a good payment record, you may be given extra time to make your payment. If your payment is already overdue, call the number on the monthly billing statement.

Delinquent Premium Payments

Can I make payments on my delinquent premiums if I have not paid on time?

In many cases, yes. Contact the revenue agent listed on the monthly billing statement or Notice and Order of Assessment or call 1-800-301-1826 and tell us that you would like to negotiate a payment agreement.

You may need to provide financial information to the revenue agent, depending on the length of the payment agreement.

Estimating Workers' Comp Costs

How do I estimate workers' comp costs for a business I am planning?

Contact the L&I Small Business Office at 1-800-987-0145 or L&I Employer Services at 360-902-4817. An L&I account manager will determine your correct workers' comp risk class and the rate you would pay per employee hour worked.

Workers' Comp for Owners

I own a business. Am I required to have workers' comp coverage on myself?

No. Owners of businesses (sole proprietors), exempt corporate officers, and partners aren't required to have workers' comp coverage in this state. LLC members generally are exempt from workers' comp, but there are exceptions to that rule, depending on the structure of the LLC.

Find details about LLCs and coverage on Pages 8 and 9 of the Workers' Compensation Recordkeeping and Reporting Guides (F212-222-000).

You may choose to have workers' comp coverage ("elective coverage") if you and other corporate officers/LLC members are exempt. Contact L&I Employer Services at 360-902-4817 or fill out the Application for Elective Coverage (F213-042-000).

Compliance Training

Where can I get the training I need to avoid L&I compliance problems?

Go to L&I's Workshop & Training Center to get information about workshops, training, and certification programs offered by L&I, as well as online courses and a number of other resources.

Drug Testing

Can I drug test my employees?

Yes, under certain guidelines. For more information, contact:

Washington State Drug-Free Business Initiative
1-800-598-3437
www.drugfreebusiness.org

Employee Leave Rules

What are the rules around employee leave (vacation, sick, pregnancy, family)?

Find answers and resources about leave and benefits:

Didn't find the answer you need quickly? Contact the Small Business Office at1-800-987-0145.

Overtime Pay

Which employees must be paid overtime, and when?

Find answers and resources about overtime and exemptions. Didn't find the answer you need quickly? Contact the Small Business Office at 1-800-987-0145.

Paycheck Deductions

What can I deduct from my employee's paycheck?

Find out which deductions are allowable from a paycheck. Didn't find the answer you need quickly? Contact the Small Business Office at 1-800-987-0145.

Safe Workplace Requirements

What do I have to do to meet the state's requirements for a "safe" workplace?

Learn how to get started in safety and health. This section of our website features:

  • A-Z safety and health topics
  • Injury fact sheets
  • Required training and plans
  • Safety and health checklists
  • Sample accident prevention programs

Teen Workers

What are the rules for workers under age 18?

Find answers and resources about teen workers. Didn't find the answer you need quickly? Contact the Small Business Office at 1-800-987-0145.

Workplace Posters

A notice in the mail says I must buy their workplace posters or risk a big fine from the government. Is this true?

No. You aren't required to purchase workplace posters from these marketing firms. However, state law does require employers to post workplace posters, which you can get free of charge from L&I and other agencies. We will mail them to you free of charge. You can order required workplace posters online or call an L&I office near you.

 

Contact L&I's small business liaisons