Workers’ Compensation FAQ

What is workers’ compensation? 

Workers’ compensation coverage is a type of insurance designed to protect the injured individual and the employer.

According to the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board, workers’ compensation provides a percentage of lost wages and covers medical expenses for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job. Workers’ compensation also protects the employer from being sued by employees for work-related injuries. 

Who is eligible for workers’ compensation coverage and what does it cover?

If you are hurt or become ill as a direct result of service to the university related to your funding (assistantship, fellowship, or hourly wage), workers’ compensation coverage provides full or partial stipend replacement for determined time periods and typically covers medical expenses.

If you are hurt or become ill as part of your academic, social, or personal pursuits, or if you are not funded through Cornell, medical expenses would be covered by your health insurance.

If your injury or illness may slow your academic progress, the Graduate School can work with you and your graduate field and faculty advisors to offer additional flexibility or provide additional support resources. Student Disability Services can work with you and your graduate field to identify whether formal accommodations may be helpful as you continue your academic pursuits.

What determines whether an injury will be covered under workers’ compensation coverage or under health insurance?

If you are injured, file a University Injury Report and indicate you are a graduate/professional student. If you report you had a work-related injury Cornell will notify the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board about your report. If there is a question about whether the injury is work-related or not and thus eligible for workers’ compensation coverage, the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board will determine eligibility.

If your injury was not work-related, your medical expenses will be handled through your health insurance. 

Why do I have to file an injury report?

An injury report is necessary to identify you as a graduate/professional student eligible for the student injury support processes Cornell offers, to notify other university offices, to support you in continuing your academic progress, and to trigger the workers’ compensation claim process as appropriate. 

How frequently do graduate student workers’ compensation claims get filed and how have they been handled?

Between July 1, 2014 and December 31, 2016, there were 155 graduate/professional student injuries reported in the university injury reporting system, including 13 injuries that were reported as work-related, all of which were covered by workers’ compensation. No claims from graduate students for workers’ compensation were denied. Additional analysis of current data is needed.