We recently explored some of the hidden dangers of utilizing ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft from a personal injury aspect. New concerns are flooding the media, not only about patron safety, but the rights of the workers “employed” by these companies. Ridesharing workers are, in most jurisdictions, considered independent contractors, a title that earns workers significant autonomy, but few if any protections from their parent company where they receive their business.
Understanding Independent Contractor Work
Independent contractors work under oral or written contracts or agreements, but are generally self-starting and not governed by a particular employer. Ridesharing company drivers are considered independent contractors as part of a “freelance economy,” where individuals are given latitude over their business decisions. This latitude comes at a price, however; a Lyft representative admitted that “the nature of Lyft’s relationship with drivers is very different than the typical employee relationship in which an employer would provide workers’ comp insurance.” As such, the drivers at these companies are not afforded the same rights or protections as a full-fledged employee. This includes things such as health benefits, insurance, and workers’ compensation.
Workers’ Compensation and Independent Contractors
The vast majority of employees and employers are in a relationship that requires the employer to hold workers’ compensation insurance in case one of their employees is injured on the job. The rationale behind this is that when an employee is acting at the direction or direct supervision of an employer, the employer should be held responsible if the employee is injured as a result of carrying out his designated duties. In an independent contractor relationship, however, the individual may be given autonomy to perform tasks as they see fit, without any direct supervision from an employer, per se. The distinction between “employee” and “independent contractor” is one of the most complicated distinctions in workers’ compensation law; the Massachusetts Labor & Workforce Development Office has resources to determine an employer’s rights and responsibilities for their contractors, as well as information for contractors about their remedies at law in the event of an accident or injury.
Boston Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
Being an independent contractor and conducting business on your own is a great way to be a self-starter while promoting your skills and having autonomy you may not otherwise have in a conventional employer-employee relationship. Knowing your rights and the nature of your relationship with your employer, supervisor, or whoever you are working with, though, is critical to protect your rights in the event of an accident or injury on the job. Even if you are in a more traditional employer-employee relationship, workers’ compensation benefits are not automatic— there are certain forms that you must fill out in a specific window of time and there may be requirements for you to visit certain doctors approved by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Understanding your rights and responsibilities is key to a successful workers’ compensation claim. One of our competent, experienced Boston workers’ compensation attorneys at attorney John J. Sheehan’s office can help you with this process. Filling out paperwork correctly the first time can save valuable time and ensure you start receiving the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to as soon as possible. Contact our Boston, Massachusetts office to learn more about your rights as an employee today.