If you have been a follower of the news lately, you may have noticed several news stories about employee misclassification. Employee misclassification generally occurs when an employer wrongly classifies a worker as an independent contractor instead of an employee.
Although the distinction may seem academic, how a worker is classified significantly affects his or her rights. Among those rights is the right to recover workers’ compensation benefits if injured while on the job. Simply put, injured employees have the right to recover workers’ compensation; injured independent contractors do not.
Some employers attempt to misclassify workers in an attempt to avoid having to pay workers’ compensation insurance (and other financial obligations). When this happens, the burden of paying medical bills and other costs shifts to the injured worker. However, taxpayers often end up footing the bill for the worker’s emergency medical services, long-term disability and other costs. In the end, the only person who wins from misclassification is the unscrupulous employer.
If you are an independent contractor, how do you know whether you are being misclassified? The answer to this question is complicated and involves consideration of many factors. However, one of the chief factors involves how much control does your employer has over your work. If you have more control and discretion over how and when your work is performed, you are more likely to be an independent contractor. The same is true if the job is temporary, you get paid by the job or need to furnish your own tools and equipment for the job.
If you are injured while on the job and are denied workers’ compensation benefits because of your status as an independent contractor, it is important to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. An attorney can confirm whether you are wrongfully classified and work to secure the benefits that you were illegally denied.