It happens like this: a worker is going about their daily routine on the job. Something goes wrong and he or she is hurt. The worker then properly notifies the boss that he or she has been hurt on the job only to be told that they are an independent contractor and not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
So, are you an independent contractor? While working at the Missouri Department of Labor, I saw this problem all too frequently. The employer tries to avoid paying costly employment related taxes and workers’ compensation insurance by wrongfully classifying their workers as independent contractors.
An independent contractor is a worker who, exercising an independent employment, contracts to do a piece of work according to the worker’s own methods, being subject to the control of the alleged employer only as to the result of the work, and not as to the details of the manner or method of the performance of the work in question. Think of this like the roofer you bring in to repair or reshingle your roof. You contract with that person to do the job and pay them for completion of the job. You are not going to tell the roofer what tools to use, provide them with tools to use, tell them when to show up, or pay them by the hour. The control you impose over the roofer is minimal so long as they do a good job.
On the other hand, if you were the roofer and paying someone to help you, the outcome could look a little different. If the roofer was telling the worker when to show up, what tools to use, providing the tools to use, and paying the worker by the hour then that type of relationship looks a lot more like employment. That is because the roofer is imposing significant control over the worker.
In some cases, the business may have had the worker sign an agreement in which they acknowledge or agree to the classification as an independent contractor. While those agreements may be considered by a reviewing court or administrative tribunal, they are not controlling and an employment relationship may still exist between the worker and business.
If you are being wrongfully classified as an Independent Contractor the difference could be significant. You’re likely missing out on workers’ compensation benefits and could be paying more in taxes than you would if you were properly classified as an employee, just to name a few missed opportunities. The Missouri Department of Labor has provided a good tool for workers to use in evaluating whether or not they are being properly classified as an independent contractor. However, this tool is just a start. If you have been injured at work and your employer is not claiming responsibility because they have wrongfully classified you as an independent contractor, call Chris today for a free consultation.