Have you ever known someone who was injured on the job but was denied Workers’ Compensation benefits because his employer claimed he was an independent contractor? Maybe that person worked alongside other employees of the company, doing the same work and even under the same supervisor. That happens all too often as employers try to minimize their employee benefit costs.
Independent contractor status, as compared to being an actual employee with a company places a worker in a unique situation and defines whether an individual is entitled to worker’s compensation protections. Despite an employer’s effort to define and characterize an employee’s worker status, it is not defined solely by the title the employer decides to place on an individual, but instead by a number of distinct factors.
In order to qualify as an independent contractor all of the factors of employment are considered, not just your job title. Factors that determine independent contractor status include the work contract and whether it identifies the individual as an independent contractor, how much control the company has over the individual worker, whether the work is of a type that the individual does for a large number of different individuals, who supplies the work materials, the length of the job and whether it is for an indeterminate period of time, and how the worker is paid, among others.
Whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee is a determining factor for deciding if the company is required to provide Workers’ Compensation insurance. Under Oklahoma law a company is only required to obtain Workers’ Compensation for their actual employees. Because of this, many employers will attempt to characterize their employees as independent contractors. This saves them money, but puts the workers at risk for individual responsibility for medical costs in the event of an on-the-job injury.
In the example above, there was reason to question the independent contractor status–working alongside other employees under the same supervisor-but that would not be sufficient information to make a conclusive determination. The entire picture must be taken into account.
If you or someone you know has been improperly classified as an independent contractor and denied Workers’ Compensation coverage, contact the attorneys at Armstrong and Vaught, P.L.C. to arrange a consultation. Call (918) 582-2500 or toll free at (800) 722-8880 or contact us online.