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Workers Comp Case - What Employees vs. Independent Contractors Classification Means for Your Case

Whether you are designated an employee, or an independent contractor is a very important distinction when it comes to workers’ compensation in California. If you are an independent contractor, you may not be eligible for the workers’ compensation benefits when you suffer an injury. However, it may be the case that you are designated as an independent contractor, but according to the law, you may actually be considered an employee and thus eligible for California workers’ compensation benefits.

The California workers’ compensation attorneys at Kneisler and Schondel can help you fight for the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. If your case has been denied based on your employer’s claim that you are an independent contractor, it does not necessarily mean that you will lose out on workers’ compensation benefits. Our attorneys will meet with you and review the facts of your case and if your employer is improperly designating you as an independent contractor, we can help you fight back.  Contact our office today to schedule a consultation to discuss your potential workers’ compensation case.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance in California

If an employer has employees he is required to have workers’ compensation insurance that covers their employees who are injured on the job. Under California law, an employer does not have to cover their independent contractors for workers’ compensation claims. However, sometimes employers incorrectly classify workers as independent contractors when they are actually employees. If you are misclassified as an independent contractor when you are an employee, your employer may be on the hook for the workers’ compensation benefits if you get hurt at work.

What is the Difference Between an Employee and an Independent Contractor?

There is no clear-cut official way to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Rather, California courts use a variety of factors considered together to decide whether a worker is an employee, and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

One of these factors is whether the person performing the services has a business distinct from the principal (potential employer). If the answer is yes, then this factor weighs heavily in determining whether a worker is an independent contractor.

Other factors considered are whether the services rendered by the work requires a special skill and whether the principal or the worker supplies the tools or instruments necessary to complete the work or service. The length of time that the services are to be performed is also a factor, as well as the degree of permanence to the working relationship between the parties. The method of payment to the worker is also a factor that the courts consider. In addition, courts do to some degree, take into consideration whether or not the parties believe the agreement is an employer-employee relationship, but this is a mere consideration, not a determinative factor.

Other Considerations When Determining Whether a Worker is an Employee or Independent Contractor

As this is a significant issue in workers’ compensation, there has been case law that has developed over time regarding the designation of employee versus independent contractor. Under California law, the existence of a written agreement between the parties stating that the worker is an independent contractor is not determinative of this status. This means that even if you signed an agreement that you are working as an independent contractor, it does not bind you to this status if other factors weigh in favor of you being an employee. It is also not a determinative factor if you are issued a 1099 tax form rather than a W-2 form.

What Can I Do If My Workers’ Compensation Case is Denied Based on My Designation as an Independent Contractor?

Many disputes in workers’ compensation occur due to an improper designation of an employee as an independent contractor. If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, it is a good idea to speak with a knowledgeable attorney who has experience handling cases like yours to see if your claim may have been wrongly denied. Your attorney will find out from you the details of the work and services you were performing for the potential employer and advise you of your rights. It may be necessary for your attorney to take your case to hearing to have the court make the final determination of whether you are an employee and are therefore eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

If this happens, the judge will hear the facts of the case at hearing and will weigh the factors that are considered in determining whether someone is an employee or independent contractor and will issue a ruling. If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you do have the option to appeal the decision. However, you should consult with an attorney if you do not have one already since there are certain deadlines you must meet to have a viable appeal.