In a rather instructive decision, a claimant was unable to prove that he was entitled to the receipt of benefits under the Worker’s Compensation Act, because the claimant could not establish that he fit within the Act’s definition of an employee. See Evidence doesn’t meet standard for compensable employer-employee relationship. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 27, Issue 18, December 20, 2019, p. 2. The case discussed in the article, Martinez v. Chicago Field, 27 ILWCLB 188 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019), involved a claimant who, while working as a laborer cleaning gutters and installing roof shingles, fell ten feet off an unsecured ladder, suffering significant fracture(s) as a result. The arbitrator determined that, due to the dangerous nature of the claimant’s job activities, the claimant was an employee under the Worker’s Compensation Act (“the Act”). However, upon review, the Commission reversed the decision of the arbitrator, finding that, based on various factors and the evidence presented, the claimant could not be considered to have been an employee under the Act. Among the factors and evidence referred to above, was the fact that the claimant was paid a flat-rate of $400 per week in cash, with no taxes withheld from his weekly pay by his employer. Moreover, the claimant’s supervisor never set a specific schedule for the claimant to follow while at the job site, nor did the supervisor exercise control over when the claimant would work, or how the claimant would perform his job. The claimant performed the same work every week, with no variation in his job duties or assignments, and supplied his own equipment to use while working. Furthermore, the claimant was not required to exclusively work for his employer, and the fact that the work that the claimant performed was hazardous did not alter the fact that the claimant was essentially an independent contractor, and thus not afforded coverage under the Act.
It is difficult, if not often impossible, for independent contractors like the claimant above to receive benefits under the Act, due to the nature of their work arrangements with potential employers. While being an independent contractor may sometimes simplify things and make it easier for a person to find work, in the event that a contractor is injured while on the job, the status of being an independent contractor could make obtaining worker’s compensation benefits extremely problematic at best.
-Attorney Matthew Ludwinski
See Evidence doesn’t meet standard for compensable employer-employee relationship. Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law Bulletin (also cited as ILWCLB), Volume 27, Issue 18, December 20, 2019, p. 2.