Worker Classification: A Barrier in Workers’ Compensation Claims

6005170466_fbb385d878Construction workers. Farmers. Manual laborers. Factory employees. These are the types of dangerous occupations that come to mind when you think of who is likely to be injured on the job. However, anyone has the capacity to get hurt at work, even if their job tasks consist primarily of sitting behind a desk. Regardless of the area you work in, your employer is most likely required to carry workers’ compensation insurance under Massachusetts law. For an employer, carrying the proper workers’ compensation insurance not only protects the company’s finances in the event of an accident or injury, but will ensure the employer has financial protections if they are injured on the job. Employers may attempt to find loopholes to avoid carrying more or any workers’ compensation insurance, but in the end this creates more financial burden on the employer and the employee alike, should an employee be injured at work.

Employees and Workers’ Compensation

From an employee’s perspective, workers’ compensation is a right that gives them financial protection in the event they are injured on the job. Being aware of the type of insurance, policy limits, and requirements for filing a workers’ compensation injury claim through your employer are some of the first things you should familiarize yourself with when you start a new job. Paying attention to such details early on will alert you to any red flags or special mandates—some places, for instance, may require an employee to work a certain number of hours before they become eligible for workers’ compensation benefits through their employer, may require that an injury report be filed in a certain manner and within a certain number of days, and may require a visit to an “approved” physician after an injury, per the employer’s insurance company.

Employers and Workers’ Compensation

Many of the requirements or restrictions employers place on workers’ compensation claims are legal, but can be burdensome particularly in the light of a recent injury. For example, some employers can get around certain requirements by classifying their workers in a manner that allows them to bypass certain requirements. Often, this may require having a domestic service employee work less than 16 hours per week to avoid coverage, or may “label” their actual employees as independent contractors, helping them sidestep certain requirements.

The employer-employee relationship is characterized by the actual duties an employee carries out on behalf of the employer, and not necessarily by what the employer refers to their employees as on a day-to-day basis. While employees should keep abreast of their rights on the job, employers have a responsibility to provide recourse for injuries or accidents that occur on their watch. If employers are not providing adequate means of workers’ compensation coverage for the employees, officers may face jail time or civil penalties. The real consequences are deflected on the workers, however, who may not get the benefits they deserve or may have to face extensive litigation to get what they are entitled to by law.

Boston Workers’ Compensation Attorney

The best thing you can do as an employee is to understand the coverage your employer carries and your rights and responsibilities under the policy. As an employer, carrying at least the minimum amount of workers’ compensation insurance required by law will ensure your employees and your business is protected in the event of an accident or injury. As an employer, it is critical to understand your responsibilities under Massachusetts law with regards to the classification of your employees to avoid facing civil or criminal penalties, and to ensure your company’s security. If you or anyone you know has been injured on the job and have questions about your rights and responsibilities under Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, contact John J. Sheehan today. Our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys know how to advocate on your behalf, work with your employer and insurance companies to ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to; contact our Boston offices today.

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