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Misclassified employee entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits

October 19, 2020

By Richard P. Gaitens, Esquire

In Santiago v Caldwell, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) affirmed the judge’s decision that the claimant was an employee of the defendant’s house cleaning business and was entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Mildalia Santiago injured her back and knee and filed a claim petition to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits. The employer and the Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund (UEGF) argued that she was not an employee and therefore not entitled to benefits. The judge found that Ms. Santiago was an employee and entitled to benefits. The employer and the UEGF appealed.

The WCAB heard from both sides to determine if Ms. Santiago was an employee. The factors which determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor can be tricky. (See our previous case summaries: Being an Employee and Not an Independent Contractor Entitles You to Workers’ Comp and Act 72 defines Independent Contractor for Workers’ Compensation Purposes). Factors that are considered when making a determination include:

  1. Control over the work done
  2. Responsibility for result only
  3. Terms of agreement between the parties
  4. Nature of the work
  5. Skill required
  6. Who supplies the tools/equipment
  7. Is payment by time or by job
  8. Is work part of the regular business of the employer
  9. The right to terminate employment

In this case, the employer provided the worker with instructions, keys and security codes; provided the tools, paid the worker by the hour, and was responsible for customer satisfaction. These factors lead the WCAB to agree with the judge’s ruling that the worker was an employee.

What does this mean? True independent contractors are not entitled to Workers’ Compensation, but because the criteria is somewhat vague, there are many instances where an injured worker is denied Workers’ Compensation benefits because he or she has been misclassified. If you have been denied benefits because you have been classified as an independent contractor but believe you should be categorized as an employee, contact us online or call (412) 338-1177.

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