As the economy has shifted and more people are taking gig work to make ends meet, the issue of whether a worker is considered an employee or an independent contractor has become a major concern.
It’s a crucial distinction, as both state and federal laws treat employees differently from independent contractors. This includes the issue of workers’ compensation. Employees can generally collect workers’ comp benefits if they’re injured on the job while independent contractors cannot.
Despite what many employers may believe, the line between an employee and an independent contractor isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem. Simply labeling someone an “independent contractor” does not necessarily mean they aren’t an employee in the eyes of the law.
While state law says independent contractors are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, employers may try to skirt the law by calling employees “independent contractors” while denying them the benefits employees are entitled to.
Keep reading to learn more and to see how a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer from Gregory Smith Law, LLC can help if you’ve been unfairly denied your rightful benefits.
- 1 Definition of Independent Contractor
- 2 Are Independent Contractors Covered Under GA Workers’ Comp?
- 3 How Do You Know If You Are an Independent Contractor vs. an Employee in Georgia?
- 4 Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors
- 5 When Do You Need Legal Help after a Work Accident in Georgia?
Definition of Independent Contractor
Workers comp in Georgia defines an independent contractor as someone hired to do a job while maintaining control over how they do that job. This definition leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Here are a few questions that are often used in disputes between employers and their workers to determine if someone is an independent contractor:
- Did the worker sign an agreement stating they were an independent contractor?
- Is the worker being paid hourly or on salary, as employees typically are, or are they being paid by the job?
- Are the tasks that the worker is performing part of the regular work done at the business, or are they additional services?
- Does the worker bring their own tools to the job, or are they being supplied or reimbursed for the resources they need to do the job?
- Does the employer control how the worker does their job, such as setting their hours and telling the worker how to do the job?
- Has the worker ever been told that they need to follow the standard rules for employees or risk being fired?
The answers to these questions will help determine whether a worker is considered an employee eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The more control an employer exercises over when and how someone does their job, the more likely the worker will be considered an employee and not an independent contractor.
Are Independent Contractors Covered Under GA Workers’ Comp?
Independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under Georgia law. However, employers will sometimes attempt to reduce their expenses by misclassifying a worker as an “independent contractor” while denying them the benefits they would otherwise be owed if they were correctly classified as an employee.
It’s crucial to speak to a lawyer if you sustain a work-related injury to determine if you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, even if your employer says you’re an independent contractor.
How Do You Know If You Are an Independent Contractor vs. an Employee in Georgia?
Because Georgia’s definition of an independent contractor is so vague, it leaves room for employers to call workers “independent contractors” when they should rightfully be considered employees.
Georgia law says independent contractors are allowed to set their own hours and are broadly able to do the job they’re hired for in the manner they choose. So here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine whether you’re a contractor or an employee in the eyes of the law:
- Does your employer set your hours, such as when you have to work or when your day starts and ends?
- Are you paid by the job or by the hour?
- Are you doing tasks that regular employees at the business do, or are you doing other work?
It’s important to know that just because your employer says you’re an independent contractor does not automatically make it so. If you’re treated as an employee and you’re injured on the job, you may be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits. However, your employer will almost certainly fight your claim, so you’ll want to get help from a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors
Many employers, intentionally or not, misclassify employees as independent contractors. There are many reasons they might do this, such as:
- They don’t know the rules regarding what classifies someone as an employee vs. an independent contractor.
- They want to keep their expenses low by avoiding paying contractors benefits and workers’ compensation.
- They want to avoid paying for overtime.
Regardless of an employer’s intentions when they misclassify an employee as an independent contractor, the practice still denies workers their rightful benefits under Georgia’s employment laws. This is especially harmful to employees who are injured on the job, as they likely do not have health insurance through their employers if they are classified as independent contractors.
If you’re injured and feel that you’ve been unfairly denied workers’ compensation benefits, speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
When Do You Need Legal Help after a Work Accident in Georgia?
If you’ve been wrongfully denied workers’ compensation benefits after being hurt on the job, you need to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the longer it will likely take to obtain your benefits. Waiting to talk to a lawyer also increases your chances of running into problems with Georgia’s time limit on workers’ compensation claims. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a compensation for independent contractors claim.
The team at Gregory Smith Law, LLC is ready to hear from you as soon as you’re ready to discuss your claim. We’ve been helping injured workers for years, and we have a deep understanding of Georgia workers compensation law. If you need the help of a top workers compensation attorney, get a free initial consultation by calling our office in Augusta, or you can fill out our contact form.