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Court decision could mean workers' compensation for contractors

In the past, there has been a relatively clear classification of employees in California and employers have used that to their advantage when using independent contractors. While a prior post here examined how important worker classification is when a person is injured on the job and is seeking workers' compensation benefits, the laws in the state regarding that classification might be changing. This is important for those who are part of the so-called "gig" economy and who suffer injury or illness from their work and are concerned about the possibility of getting workers' compensation benefits.

A California Supreme Court decision has stated that employers will be required to treat workers who perform duties that are related to the company's "normal course of business" like they are employees, instead of contractors. This can be a complicated issue to understand, but an example where a contractor would not be considered an employee based on this decision is if a plumber is called to fix a toilet and the business is not a plumbing business. If, however, a company hires someone to perform work that is linked to its main business, then this person would be viewed as an employee and get all the benefits that an employee would.

This will influence people who drive for companies like Lyft and Uber, those who walk dogs, are hairdressers and perform other functions in the "gig" economy. People who fall into these categories might be eligible to get workers' compensation if they are injured on the job. While this decision could have an impact on how these companies function and might spark changes as to how they run the business, some workers who are not considered employees, but are perceived as integral to the business, could be suddenly eligible for benefits they were not entitled to before.

When there is an injury on the job, it is wise to understand the law for workers' compensation. These changes make it even more essential. Even if the worker remains classified as an independent contractor and is not eligible to file workers' compensation claims, it might be possible to move forward with a lawsuit against others who might be responsible for the injuries.

Source:, "A California Ruling Threatens The Gig Economy," Klint Finley, May 2, 2018

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