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Independent Contractor vs Employee: one classification will prevent you from getting benefits

Independent Contractor vs Employee: one classification will prevent you from getting benefits

If you are injured on the job in Tennessee, you may be entitled to workers compensation benefits. However, only “employees” are entitled to benefits under the Workers Compensation Act. Some employers attempt to classify their employees as “independent contractors” to avoid having to pay workers compensation benefits to those injured on the job. Therefore, when there is an on-the-job injury, it is crucial to determine whether you are an employee or independent contractor.

Most people know whether they are an employee or independent contractor, yet it is fairly common for the courts to have to decide whether an injured worker was an employee or an independent contractor.  Why is it a big deal if your employer classifies you as an independent contractor when you are really an employee? Employers do not have to have workers compensation insurance coverage for independent contractors.

It is a widespread problem in Tennessee for employers to incorrectly classify their employees as independent contractors to avoid having to pay for workers compensation insurance coverage. As you can imagine, once there is an injury on the job, it is typically an employer arguing that someone is an independent contractor rather than an employee, and not entitled to benefits. On the other hand, it is typically the injured worker who is arguing that he/she is an employee, not an independent contractor, and therefore entitled to workers compensation benefits.

If you have been injured on the job and are not sure if you are an employee or independent contractor, there are certain factors to take into consideration that will help the courts determine whether you are entitled to benefits.  Some of the questions that will be asked to determine whether you are an independent contractor or an employee will include:

  • How are you paid – do you get a salary/wages or are you paid per job?
  • Who controls the workplace?
  • Who has the authority to hire/fire workers?
  • Who furnishes the tools used to complete jobs?
  • Who schedules your hours and when you arrive/leave work?
  • How much freedom do you have over your workplace?

If you get paid per job you complete, control your own work hours, bring your own tools to complete jobs, have freedom over when you begin and complete jobs, have the authority to hire and fire helpers to complete jobs, and have freedom over how jobs are completed, you are likely an independent contractor.

On the other hand, if you have very little freedom over how to complete tasks and the hours you work, you are not able to hire or fire workers, your employer provides the tools necessary to complete your job, and you receive consistent wages or a salary, you are likely considered an employee and are entitled to workers compensation benefits.

You will also need to determine how many employees your employer has.  In Tennessee, if a business has four or less employees, then it does not need to have workers compensation coverage for its employees. However, if the business has five or more employees, not including independent contractors, then the business becomes responsible for having workers’ compensation coverage in place for its employees.

This includes even part time and seasonal employees.  If your employer is denying you workers compensation benefits and claiming it is because they have too few employees, and you believe your employer has at least 5 employees, then contact a workers’ compensation attorney because you may be entitled to benefits for your on-the-job injury.

Just because your employer tells you that they consider you an independent contractor does not mean you truly are an independent contractor! If you have been injured on the job and your employer told you that you are not entitled to workers compensation benefits because you are an independent contractor, speak with a knowledgeable workers compensation attorney to see if you are in fact entitled to benefits.