You work as a forklift operator in a warehouse. One day, a heavy box falls from a high shelf--landing on you and crushing your shoulder. You have to have emergency surgery, and you're unable to work for months. To add insult to injury, your manager informs you that you're not eligible for workers' compensation--because you're an independent contractor, not an employee.
You're shocked. You're out of commission--with no income and facing steep medical bills. How is this possible?
Under the law, employers are only required to provide workers' comp--along with other benefits, such as healthcare and paid time off--to employees, and not to contractors. However, many employers--deliberately or not--misclassify their employees as contractors, thereby stripping them of basic employment rights and services. National studies estimate that as much as 30 percent of employers misclassify their employees in this way.
However, the classification of a worker is not a matter of arbitrary semantics. Even if your work contract lists you as a "contractor," this alone is not sufficient to classify you as such. In today's post, we outline the basic criteria for determining whether a worker is in fact an employee:
- Permanency: An employee is usually hired with the expectation that their employment will be ongoing and indefinite. A contractor, on the other hand, tends to be hired for a fixed amount of time or for a specific project.
- Equipment: If an employer provides a worker with all of the equipment necessary to do their job, that worker is likely an employee. Contractors are often expected to provide their own equipment.
- Control: If a company manager supervises an employee and dictates when, where and how they work, this is indicative of an employee relationship. Contractors tend to have much more independence in these respects.
- Pay: An employee is usually paid in fixed intervals, either through a salary or hourly wage. A contractor ordinarily receives a lump sum for their project.
- Training: An employee may receive ongoing training over the course of their tenure with the company. A contractor, on the other hand, is usually hired for the unique skill set they already possess.
If you have been denied workers' compensation due to your alleged independent contractor status, it's worth consulting with an attorney about your worker classification. If the law defines you as an employee, you have the right to claim your employee benefits.