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Yet Another Useful and Instructive Case

| Mar 22, 2021 | Firm News |

In a case involving the vitally important question of whether an employment relationship existed between a claimant and his employer, the claimant was able to prevail, both at arbitration and upon review before the Commission. See Claimant provides convincing testimony to establish employment relationship. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 28, Issue 20, February 12, 2021, p.2.[1]  The case referred to and discussed in the article, Muniz v. Routine Maintenance, 28 ILWCLB 210 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2020), involved a laborer (the claimant), who was hired by a company that matched or referred applicants to construction and/or labor jobs, in return for receiving compensation (in the form of commissions) for its (the company’s) efforts.  While at a worksite to which he was referred by the company, the claimant fell from a ladder and was severely injured.[2]  At arbitration, the company’s representatives asserted that the company never provided equipment or transport for laborers to jobsites, nor supervised workers while on the job, and as a result, the company was therefore not the claimant’s employer, as defined in the Worker’s Compensation Act.  The company also pointed to the contract made between the claimant and the company, in which the claimant was classified as an independent contractor, but the arbitrator found both this and the company’s other assertions unpersuasive, for several reasons.[3]  Firstly, the company drove the claimant and other workers to the worksite where the claimant’s injury occurred, and it also provided the ladder from which the claimant eventually fell as well.  The company also closely supervised the worksite and the claimant’s work there, and based on the foregoing, as both testified to by the claimant and supported by other evidence presented at the hearing, the arbitrator found that an employment relationship existed between the claimant and the company.[4]  The company predictably appealed the arbitrator’s decision, but upon review, the Commission affirmed, holding that there was no error or mistake in the arbitrator’s decision or analysis of the evidence.  The claimant’s testimony was also seen to be more believable than that proffered by the company, and the evidence presented in his favor more compelling.[5]

The Muniz case is useful because it shows that, besides a claimant having to prove that his (or her) injuries were caused by and/or arose out of his (or her) employment, a claimant also must establish, before addressing any other issues, that an employment relationship even existed between the claimant and his (claimed) employer in the first place.  Without proving this salient fact, a claim for worker’s compensation benefits will inevitably fail.  As further shown in Muniz, the primary factor in determining whether there is an employment relationship, is the degree to which a respondent-employer exercises control over both an employee-claimant and what occurs at a work area or site, along with also how relatively compelling and plausible the testimony offered by the respective parties is.

[1]See Claimant provides convincing testimony to establish employment relationship. Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law Bulletin (also cited as ILWCLB), Volume 28, Issue 20, February 12, 2021, p.2.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.

Attorney Matthew Ludwinski