Employees vs. Independent Contractors
For roughly the last decade, the rise of the so-called ‘gig economy’ has placed more and more workers in the position of not technically being employees, but rather being classified as independent contractors. Sometimes, however, employers will do this either mistakenly, or in a deliberate effort to try and avoid payroll taxes and paying workers’ compensation claims. It is critical that you understand your status on the job, so that you are not faced with an unwelcome surprise if you are injured at work one day.
Control Is The Key
When determining whether someone should properly be classified as an employee or an independent contractor, control is the primary element to look for – more particularly, the amount of control (or lack thereof) that an employer has over the person in question. Florida law specifies six different factors, four of which must be met in non-construction industries, for someone to be classified as an independent contractor. They are:
- Maintaining a separate business with their own work facility, vehicle, tools, and the like;
- Holding (or at least applying for) a federal employer identification number, unless they are exempt from requiring one;
- Having one’s compensation paid for services rendered to a business (even a sole proprietorship), rather than an individual;
- Holding one or more bank accounts in the name of their business entity;
- Performing work for any employer without being required to complete an application or interview; and
- Receiving compensation for services rendered based on either a competitive bid basis, or completing a set of agreed-upon tasks.
If you do not meet at least four of these (or all six, if you work in construction), you are generally considered an employee under Florida law. If you are an employee, you are eligible for benefits like paid time off and workers’ compensation. If you are denied workers’ compensation because you are classified as an independent contractor, or because your employer refuses to honor your claim, you may have other options.
Independent Contractors Can Sue
If you have been misclassified by your employer, that is a different problem, which is generally best handled by an employment law attorney. In terms of workers’ compensation, though, the picture is somewhat more clear. Normally an employee who is injured on the job gives up their right to sue their employer in exchange for guaranteed workers’ compensation benefits. However, if an independent contractor is injured on the job, they are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, and thus their best method of recovering for their injury is very often to bring suit against their employer.
The standard of proof to hold an employer liable is fairly high, but not impossible to reach. You must be able to demonstrate that they breached the duty to exercise reasonable care with regard to their workers, and that their breach of duty was the direct cause of the harm you suffered. If an employee tries to sue their employer, they must be able to demonstrate either malice on the part of the employer, or that the employer showed reckless indifference to their workers’ safety. However, since an independent contractor is not bound by the same rules, only a regular standard of proof applies, which can make it easier to prevail in court.
Contact An Orlando Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Misclassification is against the law, but even if you are truly an independent contractor, you are not without options if you are injured on the job. Contacting an Orlando workers’ compensation lawyer at the Hornsby Law Group can help you determine how best to proceed with your claim, so that you stand the best chance of receiving the compensation you need to get back on your feet. Call our office today to schedule an appointment.