Proving the existence of an employer-employee relationship is the first step for a claimant on the proverbial road to success in a worker’s compensation claim, but it is amazing how many employers still try to wiggle out of providing worker’s compensation insurance coverage for their employees, or of acknowledging the existence of an employment relationship with their injured employees who bring claims, especially since many employers are eventually found to be in an employer/employee relationship with the claimants. While having previously written about a prior case involving the issue of whether an employment relationship existed between a claimant and his employer, I recently read yet another case involving the same elemental question of whether an employment relationship existed between parties, and one in which the claimant thankfully prevailed. See Claimant proves employee status, secures § 4(d) petition against business. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 3, March 26, 2021, p.2. The case discussed in the article, Cuello v. Tran, 29 ILWCLB 23 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2021), involved a construction worker hired by an owner of a small construction business to remodel a hair salon. While attempting, with the assistance of the owner, to thread electrical wire through a pipe, the worker fell from a ladder provided by the owner, and was injured, but initially could not receive benefits, as the owner had deliberately avoided purchasing any workers’ compensation insurance. The worker brought a Section 4(d) Petition under the Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”) against the owner and his business, seeking confirmation from the Commission that the worker was an employee of the owner, as defined by the WCA, and also that the owner willfully refused to provide insurance coverage. The Commission found in favor of the worker, firstly because of the degree of control that the owner exercised over both the worker and the jobsite (ie. the owner paid employees by the hour, provided all equipment, set the work schedule, directed and supervised all work, etc.), but also because of the dangerous nature of the work as well. As alluded to above, the Commission also found that the business owner intentionally refused to purchase an insurance policy for workers’ compensation coverage, after both reviewing the owner’s business insurance application with his insurance agent (in which the owner opted out of worker’s compensation coverage), and by taking note of the owner’s testimony during the Section 4(d) hearing, in which the owner admitted that he refused to purchase coverage because of the considerable expense involved in doing so.
The Cuello case is helpful and instructive, as it demonstrates that a claimant must establish, before anything else, that the claimant was indeed an employee of his employer, as defined by the WCA, especially in those cases that also involve a question of the employer’s responsibility to provide worker’s compensation insurance coverage to his em
See Claimant proves employee status, secures § 4(d) petition against business. Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law Bulletin (also cited as ILWCLB), Volume 29, Issue 3, March 26, 2021, p.2.
Attorney Matthew Ludwinski