Trouble in Neverland

March 10th, 2006 by Julie Ferguson

If you had asked me to guess which celebrity was facing a stop work order and fine for failure to pay workers comp, I don’t think Michael Jackson would have been at the top of my list, but there you have it. Who says nothing exciting ever happens in workers comp?
Yesterday, the Ferris wheel and carousel were shut down and the gates of the 2,600-acre ranch closed and locked. Apparently the golden-gloved boss hasn’t paid his 69 employees since December, and his workers comp policy lapsed in early January. California ‘s Department of Industrial Relations has imposed fines of $1,000 per employee and his employees will not be allowed to work until he he secures a workers comp policy.
And of course, there’s the small matter of the elephants, giraffes, orangutans and assorted other exotic animals in the Jackson menagerie that will need to be fed and cared for. I wonder what types of claims, if any, the ranch has experienced in the past? Tiger maulings and monkey bites are not standard claims fare, but they do occur in the course and scope of employment. Of course, many may remember that Michael Jackson himself experienced a rather terrible work-related injury a number of years ago.
There’s an object lesson for all employers here: states are very serious about workers comp coverage, and if you are in arrears, more and more states are getting aggressive about applying stop work orders. Small contractor or celebrity – if you don’t have workers comp, it’s a level playing field