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Exploring the Definition of an Independent Contractor

By Alvaro Lizarraga, Esq.

Injured workers in California must be classified as an employee and not as an independent contractor in order to qualify for benefits under the state's workers' compensation system. 

Truck Driver in California
Even though it is illegal, far too often employers classify workers as independent contractors to avoid providing group medical coverage, and/or workers' compensation and other benefits that are usually available to individuals classified as employees.

When determining a worker's classification status, it's all about control.  An independent contractor has the control to make decisions and control how the work is to be accomplished, and the payer only has a say in the end result.    Whereas, a person is an employee if the payer controls how the work is to be accomplished and the means by which it will be accomplished.

Many times individuals will be made to sign a contract classifying them as independent contractors and/or they will be paid without payroll deductions, with their income reported via an IRS 1099 Form rather than a W-2 form. This leads people to believe they have no recourse in the event of a work injury.
This is not necessarily true.

The label of independent contractor vs. an employee is very fact-intensive, so each situation is different. The line can be blurred. What is clear, however, is that injured workers who are classified as independent contractors should seek the legal guidance of an experienced, knowledgeable workers' compensation attorney to ensure that they receive the full range of benefits to which they are entitled through the workers' compensation system, regardless of whether the payer has insurance or not.

For more than three decades, the attorneys at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP have been fighting on behalf of those injured on the job. If you would like to speak with an attorney about your legal options, please call 213-739-7000 or click here.  




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