Most people employed as independent contractors assume they have no protections under the law. However, just because someone may meet the criteria of an independent contractor for Internal Revenue purposes, or under definition set by unemployment, this does not mean they go without protection if they are injured at work.
One of the purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Act is to bring this kind of protection to as many people as possible including many in non-traditional employment settings.
Unlike the Internal Revenue Service or the Department of Labor’s standards, workers’ compensation establishes two tests to determine if someone is an employee or an independent contractor. These are the “control” test and the “relative nature of work” test.
Under the control test, an independent contractor is considered one who carries on a separate business, and contracts to do work according to his or her methods, without being subject to control of an employer except as to the results. When the relationship is that of an employee/employer, the employer retains the right to control what is done and the manner in which the work is completed. This control does not actually have to be exercised by the employer but is enough that the employer has the right to exercise this control. Examples of this control can be found in cases holding a school psychologist, or a sheet rock hanger on a construction site to be employees for workers’ compensation benefits.
The “relative nature of the work test” is really an economic test and the deciding factor is not the details of the arrangement between the parties, but rather, dependence and the relationship of the nature of the work to the operation of that business. A painter working for a painting company, a caddie at a golf club, a driver of a truck leased from a trucking company, even a newspaper boy, are examples of employments that have been held to be covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act.
If you are an independent contractor or are injured during the course of your work, you should consult with us to determine your rights under the law. Please feel free to contact me here in my firm’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office. I’d be happy to meet with you, free of charge, to review your claim.