Workers who are injured on the job are often eligible to seek workers’ compensation benefits for their medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages while they are recovering from their injuries. Workers’ compensation benefits can be a huge financial help while an injured worker is trying to recover and many injured workers and their families depend on these benefits. But only certain types of employees are eligible for workers’ compensation. Some classifications of workers are expressly ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits. One type of worker who is ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits is the independent contractor.
Proper Identification of Worker Status is Important
Whenever a worker is employed by an employer, the employer has a responsibility to properly identify the worker’s employment status. Two broad categories of worker status include employee (both fulltime and part-time) and independent contractor. The employer has different responsibilities and obligations towards each of these two groups of workers. For starters, virtually all employers are required by Georgia law to provide employees with workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Employers do not have the same obligation to provide independent contractors with workers’ compensation insurance coverage under the law.
There are a number of benefits to being classified as an independent contractor. From the independent contractor’s point of view, an independent contractor usually has a more flexible schedule than an employee and often has a lot more autonomy over his or her job duties than an employee does. While the freedoms that come with being an independent contractor can be nice, being classified as an independent contractor has quite a few disadvantages. For instance, a worker that is classified as an independent contractor saves the employer money because employers are not required to provide them with insurance or other benefits, pay overtime compensation to the independent contractor when it is earned, withhold the independent contractor’s taxes, and independent contractors often pay for many things out of their own pocket.
In Georgia, independent contractor status is usually established when the employer can demonstrate that the worker has 1) the freedom to control and direct his or her own work performance, and 2) that the worker is engaged in a traditionally independent trade, business, profession or occupation. Independent contractors are often free to hold employment with multiple employers at the same time.
A lot of factors go into determining whether or not the worker has the freedom to control and direct his or her own work and thus is an independent contractor. Some pertinent factors include whether the work was of the type normally performed under the supervision of the employer or not, whether the employer provided the tools and/or work location for the work to be performed, how the worker was paid for the work he or she performed for the employer, whether the work is performed as part of the regular business of the employer, and the intent of the parties regarding the employer-worker relationship.
An employer can also demonstrate that a worker is an independent contractor if they can show that the IRS has found that the worker is not an employee through an SS – 8 determination. Demonstrating that a worker is an independent contractor by this second method, often requires that the employer has undergone a Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) audit. GDOL audits are typically conducted after there is an instance that a worker is misclassified as an independent contractor, and the GDOL wants to make sure that the business owner is not habitually misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and employee benefits for those workers.
The Challenges of Being Misclassified as an Independent Contractor
Things can become difficult for an injured worker who is misclassified as an independent contractor. Being misclassified can deprive the injured employee of the workers’ compensation benefits that he or she is entitled to and most likely desperately needs. Usually the issue of a worker being misclassified as an independent contractor arises when an employer does not know how to appropriately designate a specific employee for payroll purposes. It is unfortunate, but this happens all the time in Atlanta. Misclassification can lead to a lot of headache for the injured worker. Types of employees that are often misclassified as independent contractors include:
- Sharing-economy or “gig”-economy workers.
- Call center workers.
- Delivery drivers.
- Cleaning service providers.
- Night time entertainment workers.
- Massage therapy workers.
- TV and cable installers.
Do not let your employer deprive you of the workers’ compensation benefits that you are entitled to by misclassifying you as an independent contractor when you are in fact an employee. If you are an employee, your employer owes a duty to you to provide you with workers’ compensation insurance protection. If you have been denied workers’ compensation benefits because of your worker classification, you need to speak with an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to discuss your specific circumstances.
All Is Not Lost Even If You Are An Injured Independent Contractor
Even if it is determined that you are an independent contractor and not an employee, you may still have legal recourse if you were injured while on the job. While you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you may on the other hand be able to sue your employer for your injuries through a personal injury lawsuit. You should consult with a personal injury lawyer if this is your situation.
Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer: Bader Scott Injury Lawyers
The misclassification of workers as independent contractors is a problem in the Georgia workforce and it deprives workers of employee benefits that they deserve. Many employers inappropriately misclassify workers as independent contractors in order to avoid paying out benefits, overtime compensation and providing insurance for these workers. If you have been injured while on the job and have had your workers’ compensation benefits denied because your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor, you need to speak with a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney immediately. Please feel free to contact the skilled Atlanta workers’ compensation legal team at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers to discuss your particular situation.