You’ve been working for a construction company for a while, and you haven’t thought much about the fact that your boss has labeled you as an independent contractor – until you get injured and sidelined. That’s when you find out that you’re not eligible for workers’ compensation.
Is this legitimate? Maybe – or maybe your employer is trying to game the system. Here’s what you need to know:
Employers misclassify employees for all kinds of reasons
Employee misclassification is a common problem. Employers naturally want to limit their payroll expenses, unemployment liabilities and workers’ compensation insurance costs – and some are willing to do it by purposefully misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor. In other situations, the misclassification may be an honest mistake – but still one that must be rectified.
Maryland law provides employees with wage and employment protections. These include unemployment benefits, Social Security contributions, tax withholdings and importantly, workers’ compensation benefits, among other entitlements. If you are classified as an independent contractor and get hurt on the job, you likely will not be able to file a claim to recover workers’ compensation.
Three considerations when determining between employees and independent contractors
It doesn’t matter what your employer calls you, nor does a signed agreement that declares you an independent contractor enough to make you one. Instead, three different questions must be considered:
- How much does the company control what you do and how you do it? The more your work is directed and closely supervised, the more likely it is that you’re an employee. Does the Company supply your tools and materials or do you bring your own to the job?
- How are the financial aspects controlled? Do you invoice the company for your work by the hour or the job, or does your employer completely control how much you earn? Does he pay you by Company check and/or take taxes from your pay?
- What is the nature of your relationship with your employer? Do you bring specialized knowledge or skills to the job? Could you be easily replaced? Are you free to hire out elsewhere without the company’s approval? Do you or your Employer set your hours of work? Are you subject to company discipline?
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize why their employer has classified them as independent contractors until they need workers’ compensation. If this has happened to you, it is important to get experienced legal guidance from an attorney whose practice concentrates in Workers’ Compensation law.