Montgomery & Bucks County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Employer Blocked From Disclaiming Worker as Employee; Worker Entitled to Compensation Benefits

What are my options if my employer is claiming I am an independent contractor? Can I still receive workers’ compensation benefits? 

One of the most pivotal issues in a workers’ compensation case is the classification of the injured worker as either an independent contractor or employee. If classified as the former, it may be more difficult to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, especially within the construction industry. However, other employees are generally presumed covered by an employer’s workers’ compensation plan provided certain criteria are met. 

Take, for instance, a recent case involving a painter and an employer who had placed an advertisement in the local newspaper seeking painting services on an upcoming construction project. In that case, the painter arrived at the jobsite with his own truck, tools, and supplies – which is an important factor in considering a worker’s status (i.e., does he supply his own equipment?). 

Shortly thereafter, the employer stated that the painter would need to sign a document prior to beginning the job, and would be paid at a rate of $100.00 per day. However, the document establishing the relationship as contractual (as opposed to employment) was never actually signed.  Thereafter, the painter sustained severe injuries on the third day of work when he fell from a roof. 

The painter made a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, to which the employer objected on the grounds that the painter was misclassified as an employee. The employer also asserted that there is no legal requirement that an independent contractor agreement must be signed prior to a contractor beginning work. The court disagreed. 

As a starting point, the court reviewed the language of the applicable workers’ compensation regulation which states “[A]n individual who performs services in the construction industry for remuneration is an independent contractor only if . . . [the individual] has a written contract to perform such services.” Taking the language at face value, the court held that at no point in the short-lived, three-day work relationship did an agreement exist between the employer and the painter. And, even if the painter eventually signed the agreement (which he has denied), this does not alter the employment relationship as it existed in the first three days prior to the injury. 

If you were recently injured on the job and would like to discuss your rights and obligations under the law, please do not hesitate to contact the Pennsylvania workers compensation attorneys at Louis P. Lombardi, II and Associates.  We serve the areas of Montgomery and Bucks County.  Call us at  (610) 239-7600. 

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