Contractors vs. Employees in Massachusetts: The Dangers of Misclassification
What will constitute a good job in the future? With the rise of the on-demand economy, the definition of employment gets even murkier. And as more companies save money by using contractors rather than employees, workers’ compensation and other benefits may become scarcer. Many workers are left wondering if their employment status may cost them certain legal benefits.
In Massachusetts and across the country, employees enjoy certain benefits and protections, including workers’ compensation insurance – which provides coverage for medical bills and lost wages – unemployment insurance and Social Security, among others. But in a number of recent cases, major employers have become the subject of legal action for classifying workers as contractors to avoid paying for those benefits. Being misclassified could cost you advantages you would otherwise be entitled to.
If you work in Massachusetts and believe you have lost out on certain benefits due to being misclassified as an independent contractor, you should speak to a lawyer right away. Our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers can help you get the benefits and protections you are entitled to. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 to schedule a free legal consultation. Read more from Boston workers’ comp lawyer John J. Sheehan.
The Difference Between Employees and Contractors in Massachusetts
The terms “employee” and “contractor” are sometimes used interchangeably by the general public. Most people think they mean the same thing and refer to someone who performs work for an employer or boss. However, there are significant legal differences between contractors and employees. The way your employer classifies you could cost you certain benefits or protections in the workforce.
In general, a person who performs work or service for someone else is usually considered an employee. The definition of an employee is broad and encompasses most workers in Massachusetts. However, under the law, independent contractors are not considered employees. According to Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 149, § 148B, to designate someone as a contractor rather than an employee, the employer must prove three critical elements:
- The employer does not control the worker, nor does the employer control the direction of the worker’s job performance,
- The service provided by the worker is outside the normal course of business for the employer, and
- The worker’s services are usually a part of some independent trade or profession.
For the most part, if any one of these three elements is absent from the scope of someone’s employment, they must be considered an employee. This distinction is important because employees are entitled to things like a minimum wage, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, and other benefits. Independent contractors, however, may not get these benefits.
If an employer misclassifies a worker, that employer may be subject to criminal and civil penalties. If you believe you have been misclassified, causing you to miss out on certain benefits, please contact our Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys right away.
Filing Class-Action Lawsuits as an Injured Worker in Massachusetts
In recent years, high-profile tech companies have come under fire for alleged misclassification of workers. In one widely reported example, ride-sharing company Uber was sued by multiple workers and now faces a class-action suit in California. If the action succeeds, it could force the reclassification of thousands of contract workers as employees, pulling the rug out from under Uber’s business model.
Google also is fighting a class-action lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts by a driver for the company’s Google Express same-day delivery service. The driver contends that Google misclassified her as a contractor, and she is seeking compensation for overtime pay and additional expenses. The driver notes that as a Google contractor, she was required to wear Google Express uniforms and to work only for Google during shifts. She also says she did not have the option of turning down deliveries.
Our Somerville workers’ compensation lawyers can help you determine if you should be classified as an employer or a contractor. Depending on your most appropriate classification, we can help you obtain the compensation you need if you were injured on the job.
What Do Massachusetts Workers Lose in the New “Gig Economy?”
Litigation surrounding the on-demand economy has focused on what benefits workers should receive. The driver in the Google Express case argues that although an intermediary courier hired her, she was required to work exclusively for Google for the duration of her shift. Her Massachusetts workers’ comp attorneys contend that under Massachusetts law, she is entitled to overtime and other expenses.
For workers who are classified as contractors, the lost benefits may prove to be costly. Massachusetts state law, for instance, stipulates that independent contractors are not employees and that employers are not required to cover them under the workers’ compensation system. This means that if you are labeled as an independent contractor and injured on the job, you are not covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.
Many people work jobs in the “gig economy” because it pays the bills and traditional employment may be hard to come by. If you are a gig worker, you need to speak to an attorney to make sure you are not missing out on crucial employment benefits, like workers’ compensation or paid overtime. Call our Wakefield workers’ compensation attorneys to discuss your situation.
Personal Lawsuits Against Your Employer as an Independent Contractor in Massachusetts
As stated previously, when a worker is classified, or misclassified, as an independent contractor rather than an employee, they are not covered by workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is significant because it covers things like medical expenses and a portion of lost wages for workers who are injured in work-related accidents. It also bars employees from suing their employers in a personal lawsuit. However, because independent contractors are not considered employees and are not covered by workers’ compensation, they are not barred from suing their employer.
Depending on your situation, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. This could be a benefit because injured workers often receive more compensation from a personal lawsuit than they do from workers’ compensation. This is because a personal lawsuit may account for damages for pain and suffering, whereas workers’ compensation does not consider pain and suffering. If your injuries are quite painful or long-lasting, damages for pain and suffering could be rather significant.
However, being able to sue your boss may not always work in your favor. Workers’ compensation operates under a no-fault system, meaning it does not matter who caused your accident. You could be entirely responsible for your accident and still receive workers’ compensation. However, in a personal lawsuit against your employer, you must show fault. This could be very difficult in some cases, especially if there is little or weak evidence in your favor. If you lose a personal lawsuit, you might not have any other options for compensation.
Our Massachusetts workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers can help you determine your best course of action to get you the compensation you need.
Speak with Our Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
When on-demand work pays the bills, you may feel hesitant to rock the boat. But if your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor, you could be missing out on critical benefits like workers’ compensation. If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, workers’ compensation insurance is in place to cover your medical bills, time away from work, and other expenses. To ensure that you are correctly classified and receiving the benefits you’re due, consult with our experienced Cambridge workers’ compensation attorneys. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 to schedule a free legal consultation with our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers.