Results tagged “insurance”

07:11 AM
tattoo machine low copy.jpgPhoto by Edgar Hoill.

Tattoo artists on TV have not just shone a spotlight on the artistry within the industry but also some of its business practices. Putting on a pretty tattoo, pocketing the cash for it, and staying under the government radar doesn't work any more, at least not for very long, and especially not for those with sizable client lists. It's not just about complying with health & hygiene laws and making sure to pay the tax man. Studio owners and individual artists need to be aware of the full spectrum of government regulations that impact tattooing.  [I won't even get started about artists not having health insurance.]

One issue that's been a topic of increasing discussion is whether tattoo artists are independent contractors or employees -- a question that has a huge impact on costs and benefits to studio owners and individual artists and also legal liabilities. I've gotten a few calls from tattooers with tons of questions because they have gotten calls from their state labor departments with their own list of questions. [I don't practice employment law and so I don't advise on it. And this post definitely shouldn't be taken as legal advice.]

Insurance companies are also paying more attention to these employee issues in the industry. I was sent a link to an article, written by attorney Einhorn Harris, that talks about the tattoo artist as employee or independent contractor question from Professional Program Insurance Brokerage (PPIB) (who are Needles & Sins sponsors). PPIB offers workers compensation coverage and wanted to put the article on my radar. Although published in 2013, it is still a good read for how it breaks down these labor issues in the tattoo industry.

Harris explains how tattoo shop owners are responsible for withholding income taxes, withholding and paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, and paying unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. However, if the tattoo artists who work at the studio are considered independent contractors, generally, the responsibility to report income and pay taxes falls on them and not the studio owner. The IRS doesn't take too kindly to having businesses misclassify their employees, so tattoo studio owners who do so may find themselves staring down an audit and some hefty penalties. Determining that proper classification really depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding each shop, but the key factors are about control. Here's how Harris sets it out:

1. Behavioral control - Which, for Tattoo Shops, would include such inquires as whether the Tattoo Shop Owner controls, or has the right to control, what the Tattoo Artist does and how the Tattoo Artist does his or her job. For example, when to work, where to work, what tools or equipment to use, what routines or procedures must be used, and requiring use of specific tools, equipment and supplies;

2. Financial control - Are the business aspects of the Tattoo Artist's job controlled by the Tattoo Shop Owner? Such as, how is the worker paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, and who provides the tools, equipment and supplies; and

3. Relationship of the parties - Are there written contracts between the Tattoo Shop and Tattoo Artist? are there employee type benefits? (insurance, vacation pay, etc...), what is the intent of the parties and how do they perceive their business relationship to each other?

Based on these, and other factors, if artists are employees, they can be covered by workers' compensation. Taking the definition from NY's Workers' Comp Board, "Workers' compensation is insurance that provides cash benefits and/or medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job. Employers pay for this insurance, and shall not require the employee to contribute to the cost of compensation. Weekly cash benefits and medical care are paid by the employer's insurance carrier, as directed by the Workers' Compensation Board. The Workers' Compensation Board is a state agency that processes the claims."

Tattooing requires a physical ability to do the job; when hands, eyes, and backs are out of whack, tattooers may not be able to make a living, so being protected by this type of insurance can be a pretty big deal.

In the end, studio owners and artists should be having serious conversations about their work relationships. It may not make for flashy reality TV, but it can avoid real life drama in running a business.
11:05 AM
PPIB ad.jpg
In this lawsuit crazed society, it seems no one is safe from ridiculous claims. You'd be surprised that even the most frivolous sounding suits have won in court or settled with a big payday. The money and time spent defending against these attacks can cause a huge strain on tattooists, and so one of the most important ways studios can protect themselves is by having the right insurance. This weekend at the NYC Tattoo Convention, I heard one new shop owner say that, when he approached an insurance broker for coverage, the response was "I have no idea how to even do this." So, I suggested he contact those who have been taking care of tattooists and piercers since 1993: 

Profession Program Insurance Brokerage, a new sponsor of Needles & Sins.

We asked Susan Preston, the founder and president of PPIB, to give us examples of insane claims against tattoo shops she's seen. Here's her stiletto heels story:

A shop cannot control what women wear into their shop. For some unknown reason women like to wear stiletto heels to their friendly neighborhood tattooer or body piercer. In the last 4 years, we have had three claims from stiletto heels. The most notable one was in a shop that had a checkerboard floor. The woman claimed the floor made her dizzy and that is why she tripped and fell. One and one half years later, we had paid out a total of $49,000 in defense of this claim. The woman did not receive a dime from the insurer because the stiletto heels were a good defense of ours. A woman really wears them at her own risk. Be that as it may, if the shop did not have insurance that $49,000 in legal fees and defense would have come out of their own pocket or they would have had to declare bankruptcy.
Then there's one about a tattoo artist's dog biting his (then) girlfriend in the shop:

If your dog bites someone, there is no defense in law. The dog owner is totally liable. When a dog bites your significant other in your tattoo shop because he is jealous of the affection, it could test the relationship to the max. If the desire is to keep the significant other from suing, the dog owner may need to keep the lover around at least as long as the statute of limitations in the state. In a state with a statute that is 3 or 4 years, this could be a really bad thing. When this happened to one of our tattoo clients, the shop/dog owner decided the woman was not worth it so he booted her out of his life. And guess what? He got a lawsuit from her. Luckily the bite was more of a nip, so the payout was not too big. While the girlfriend is long gone, the dog is still around, although not in the tattoo shop.
Beyond stiletto heels and shop dogs, there are misspellings, misinterpreted sexual advances, mistakes in Kanji meanings, and of course infection and other serious risks. So it's best to have insurance that covers all potential claims, and PPIB has the experience in doing so. [Their staff are also tattooed.] PPIB is a member of the Association of Professional Piercers and the Alliance of Professional Tattooists.

Contact them at or 415-475-4300 for more info.
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