One issue that can come up from time to time in workers’ compensation disputes is employee classification. Companies, especially larger ones, have all kinds of people working for them in different capacities and under different contracts. One basic distinction among workers is employees versus independent contractors.
Employees, of course, are permanent workers under the management and control of a company, while independent contractors typically have more independence and work on a short-term or project basis under a contract. Employers are required to provide workers’ compensation benefits to their employees, but not to independent contractors and subcontractors. It is an important question, then, how a worker is classified.
Important to understand is that the way a company classifies a worker isn’t necessarily always accurate. It can happen that a company makes a mistake in worker classification due to overlooking details of the relationship between the worker and the company. It can also happen, though, that the misclassification is intentional in order to avoid providing benefits, including workers compensation, to the worker.
Employees who are falsely classified as independent contractors can, as a result of the misclassification, lose out on benefits unless they defend their rights. When a claim is filed, the company and the insurance carrier may deny the claim, but it is possible for a misclassified worker to have a hearing with a workers’ compensation law judge to sort the situation out. In our next post, we’ll look at some of the factors these judges consider to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor and why it is important to work with an experienced attorney in such cases.