Workers’ Compensation: Who’s In Control Here, Anyway?
If you are injured while working and your employer has denied your workers’ compensation benefits because you are considered an “independent contractor,” it is more important than ever that you speak with an experienced attorney who can determine whether you may be entitled to those benefits after all.
In South Carolina, an employer typically has to provide workers’ compensation insurance when the employer regularly operates with four or more employees.
However, history has shown that employers often classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees to avoid being responsible for workers’ compensation claims. They may get away with this in some cases, but more and more of them are being called out for an attempt to call something by a name that is not accurate, just to avoid the risk of being required to pay for a worker’s injury. As Abraham Lincoln said, “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
Just because your employer called you an independent contractor, you may not actually fit that description in the strictest sense of that definition; nor does it mean that your injury should not be covered by workers’ compensation.
The right of control
In South Carolina, the most important factor in determining whether you are an employee is the “right of control.” Does your employer have the right to control your work? South Carolina Courts frequently examine four factors in analyzing the working relationship:
- • Any direct evidence of the right or exercise of control
- • The furnishing of company equipment to the worker
- • The method of payment the worker receives, and
- • The right of the employer to fire the worker.
Someone who is truly an independent contractor is generally not subject to the same type of “control” that an employer would have over an employee. Even if your employer provides you with a 1099 for tax purposes and does not do any withholding from your paycheck, that does NOT necessarily mean you are an independent contractor for workers’ compensation purposes.
How and to what extent did your employer control the actual work you performed? Who provided the tools or equipment that you used to do your job? All four of the factors addressed above should be examined, with the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Know your rights
Workers’ compensation was created for a reason. Unfortunately, too many employers try to avoid caring for their employees properly by labeling them as independent contractors and washing their hands of the risk of injury to those workers.
If you have been hurt on the job, do not accept “no” for an answer until you have spoken to an attorney.
Remember, even being described as an independent contractor by your employer does NOT necessarily mean you are one in the eyes of the law. An attorney can help ensure you receive adequate compensation based on your true employment status.