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Independent Contractor Employee Misclassification and Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation

According to Pennsylvania law, independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation coverage.  State law does not require employers purchase to coverage for independent contractors.  Unfortunately, some employers that conduct business in the state may misclassify employees, designating workers as independent contractors in order to avoid paying workers’ compensation insurance.

Employee misclassification is an issue because following a workplace injury, an employer may deny a workers’ compensation claim on the grounds that the worker was an independent contractor. However, workers who are injured may still be eligible for compensation, as they are not controlled by the name or title the employer uses for the worker, but by the circumstances that surround the employee’s work.

Employers are obligated to extend workers’ compensation coverage to employees, as that term has been defined by law.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation, workers are considered to be employees unless proven otherwise.  Independent contractors are those who meet the following requirements: (1) they have been and continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of the services, and; (2) they are customarily engaged in an independently established occupation, business, or trade.  When a worker does not meet these criteria, they are likely to be deemed an employee.  This is the situation regardless of whether the employer considers that worker an independent contractor.

Factors that help to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or employee include the employer’s lack of direction and control over the worker.  Another factor relates to equipment, as independent contractors typically provide their own equipment to complete a job while employers provide equipment for their employees.

It is important for injured workers to appreciate that a variety of factors will determine whether they are an independent contractor or an employee.  Even written agreements with an employer that dictate a worker is an “independent contractor” will not be sufficient, on their own, to qualify the worker as an independent contractor. In fact, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Board will consider a variety of factors to ultimately assess whether the worker was an independent contractor or an employee.

The state government also provides a form that can be completed online to indicate an employer has misclassified a worker. This “worker misclassification inquiry” will begin the process of alerting the government to a potential misclassification, which is significant because it can affect benefit coverage for workers.

At Needle Law Firm, our dedicated attorneys help injured workers secure Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits. As workers’ compensation lawyers, we have helped workers throughout the state by providing efficient and personalized representation. Our dedicated lawyers understand Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws, including the system of appeals, and make it a priority to recover all available benefits for injured employees. To schedule a complimentary consultation with an attorney at our office, call us today at 570-344-1266 or complete our online form.

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