Workers' compensation is the insurance system set up to provide benefits to employees injured on the job. But does workers' compensation also provide coverage for independent contractors?
Generally, independent contractors are not eligible for workers' compensation benefits. But independent contractors who are injured on the job should not automatically assume that they will be unable to receive benefits. In some instances, employees may be misclassified as "independent contractors." In these cases, an injured worker that is able to prove that the circumstances or his or her employment are such that he or she should be considered an employee may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits.
What factors are used to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor?
'Contractor' More Than Just a Label
Recent litigation involving delivery drivers working for the shipping company FedEx illustrates the principle that a contractor is not a contractor simply because an employer decides to call him or her that. In FedEx's case, the company had claimed that thousands of drivers working for the company were independent contractors not eligible for many of the rights provided to employees such as overtime and workers' compensation coverage. The workers had even signed written agreements that they were working as independent contractors and not employees.
The court ruled that despite the written agreements characterizing the workers as contractors, the drivers were in fact employees. The court cited, among other factors, the amount of control asserted over the drivers by FedEx: the drivers wore FedEx uniforms, drove FedEx approved vehicles, and were subject to FedEx's scheduling of routes and delivery times.
Other Factors That May be Weighed
There is no single test used to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Rather, a wide range of factors may be weighed to determine the amount of independence afforded to independent contractor. These include:
Regardless of what your job title is, if your employment situation does not fulfill the requirements of an independent contractor position, you may be considered an employee and eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Learn more about receiving benefits for workplace injuries at FindLaw's Learn About the Law section on Workers' Compensation.