Lieberman, Ryan & Forrest, L.L.C.
Somerset County
Hunterdon County

Is your contractor classification keeping you from workers' comp?

The modern workforce in New Jersey is different than it was decades ago. Companies are more likely than ever to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees. Businesses do this for a variety of reasons.

First of all, there are tax implications. An employer does not have to pay any employment tax on independent contractors. Additionally, independent contractors have to pay certain taxes on their own behalf that, otherwise, employers contribute for them. Finally, it can help employers avoid expenses related to workers' compensation insurance.

You may not have thought much about the fact that your employer questionably classified you as a contractor while treating you like an employee. After all, it is a common practice. Then you wound up injured or sick because of your work. Now you need the protection of workers' compensation insurance, but your employer claims you won't get the benefits you need. Do you have any options?

You need to be able to show that you were really an employee

The simplest solution to this issue is to take legal action. You will have to demonstrate through work records and communications that your relationship with the company was that of an employee and not of an independent contractor. Everything from instructions on a work order to the way you received your pay could influence your proper classification.

There are many subtle distinctions between an independent contractor and an employee. If the company provided you with equipment, that likely means you are an employee. If you are subject to rules regarding when and how you perform certain tasks or direct micromanagement and oversight, you are very likely an employee and not an independent contractor. The same is true if your work is part of the company's standard business operations.

There is some gray area to this classification system. In other words, you probably want to sit down with an attorney if you need workers' compensation benefits but can't get them because of your contractor status.

Explore all of your options for compensation for a workplace injury or illness

If a company is willing to bend or break the law in one area, they're likely to do it and others as well. Businesses that will classify workers as independent contractors while treating them like employees may also shirk their obligations regarding training or workplace safety.

Depending on your work environment, you may have the right to file a civil lawsuit against your employer in addition to seeking your workers compensation benefits. Every employment scenario is unique, as is every injury and illness caused by a job. Discussing the specifics of your condition and your employment with an experienced attorney can help you figure out your options.

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