Workers’ Compensation & Independent Contractors
Today, a growing proportion of the U.S. workforce is made up of independent contractors, who may also be called consultants or temporary workers. Depending on the field, these workers can be a small or large part of any company’s makeup. However, the status of independent contractor can come with certain potential pitfalls, and in rare cases, can actually be used by an unethical employer to cause harm to their employees. It is pivotal for an employee to understand their own status at work, lest it be used against them, especially in the area of workers’ compensation and benefits.
Independent Contractors Under Florida Law
Prior to 1990, the term “independent contractor” was undefined in Florida law. After a modification in that year, the relevant statute now lists specific criteria to debate, and holds that if someone meets four of the six (or all six in the construction industry), they are an independent contractor, rather than an employee. Generally, the factors and ultimate determination largely depend on the degree of control exerted over the worker by an employer.
Independent contractors outside the construction industry are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from the person they are contracting with – however, this does not mean that they are not entitled to access the system. Since independent contractors are usually considered self-employed, they are able to access workers’ compensation benefits through either their own insurance, or the insurance of whomever they primarily work for (for example, an agency for tutors or interpreters may hire out some of its personnel, but the workers would still be considered employed by the agency).
Something to keep in mind is that one’s independent contractor status may not always be clear-cut. If you are unsure, it is generally in your best interests to figure it out, because if you are misclassified as an independent contractor when you are in fact an employee, you may lose out on benefits to which you are legally entitled. An unethical employer may in fact deliberately misclassify employees in order to lessen their insurance burden, or to avoid the possibility of being forced to pay out claims. Misclassification in this manner is a felony, and yet it can be quite difficult to prove that such a thing has been done deliberately.
If you believe you have been classified as an employee when you are an independent contractor, or vice versa, the best thing to do is to bring it to the attention of the relevant authorities at the same time that you apply for workers’ compensation benefits. It may cause a delay in your proceedings, but it is better to initiate them than to wait, especially if your injuries are severe. Your employer may be subject to civil and/or criminal liability, and such a determination would be taken into account upon reviewing your case.
Contact An Orlando Workers’ Compensation Attorney
An independent contractor is sometimes in a peculiar position within the company they are contracted for, but their rights should never be infringed upon simply because of their status. If you believe this is happening to you, the dedicated Orlando workers’ compensation attorneys at the Hornsby Law Group may be able to assist you in asserting your rights. Call our office today to set up a consultation.