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Workers' compensation and independent contractors

California workers who are labeled as independent contractors and suffer a workplace injury accident or an occupational disease might be under the impression that their status prevents them from collecting workers' compensation benefits. They might be independent contractors and the statement on the part of the employer that they cannot get the workers' compensation benefits that are accorded to employees might be accurate. But there is a chance that it is not. Understanding what factors generally constitute being an employee and how that is different from being an independent contractor is imperative when seeking benefits.

In the state, there is no ironclad definition of being an independent contractor. When it is determined whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, labor law enforcement agencies and the courts consider numerous issues. An employer might try to label a worker as an independent contractor to keep from having to pay various fees that would accompany having another employee, but that does not mean that the worker is not an employee. To be an independent contractor, the person is generally responsible and has control over his or her own work.

In the following situations, the worker is not likely to be an independent contractor: if the employer is in control of details and how the person goes about the work; if the employer is able to dismiss the worker; if wages are paid hourly or via salary; if there are deductions for Social Security or unemployment; if materials or tools are supplied; or if the employer requires the worker to work on certain days or hours.

When a worker is injured or becomes ill on the job and cannot work, there can be major worries as to what will happen next. There will be medical bills and the inability to work can cause them to get into a financial hole. Workers' compensation is for people who are in just this situation, but if the person is identified as an independent contractor, they could face hurdles in getting benefits. Having legal assistance to determine if the person was not an independent contractor, but was an employee is one way to get workers' compensation. There could be others. The case must be examined by an experienced legal professional and that is the first call that the injured worker should make.

Source: dir.ca.gov, "Answers to frequently asked questions about workers' compensation for employees -- About the basics -- I know that independent contractors aren't covered under workers' compensation. How do I know if I really am an independent contractor?," accessed on Dec. 12, 2017

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