In the decade since the economic recession, the U.S has seen an explosion in a new category of jobs and workers associated with the gig economy. Gig economy workers, often categorized as independent contractors, miss out on the safety net of basic protections awarded to standard employees.
Independent contractors are subject to lower wages and the burden of carrying their own health insurance. Additionally, independent contractors are often ineligible for workers’ compensation. When gig economy workers are injured on the job, it may be possible to hold an employer liable for negligence in order to collect damages.
Employer comparative negligence
In order to have a valid claim, the worker must be able to establish that the employer had a duty to protect the worker and the duty of care was breached, resulting in the worker’s injury. The state of Georgia follows the comparative negligence doctrine. Under this ruling, a person can only file and recover damages if they were less than 50 percent at fault for the accident that resulted in the injury.
Georgia defines negligence as, “ordinary diligence is that degree of care which is exercised by ordinarily prudent persons under the same or similar circumstances … the absence of such diligence is ordinary negligence”. An employer can be negligent by failing to train or reasonably supervise a worker among other things. The statute of limitations for negligence injury claims is two years.
Determining employment status
Before pursuing a negligence case, it is helpful to make sure the employee is correctly classified. The advent of the gig economy has blurred the line between employees and independent contractors. There are an increasing number of lawsuits around the country alleging that workers are wrongly classified as independent contractors.
IRS uses a worker’s level of control over their job to define the worker’s status as an employee or a contractor. The IRS states, “The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done”. Workers should review their job description and duties to make sure they are correctly classified. Incorrectly classified employees may be eligible for retroactive overtime pay, benefits compensation and employment taxes.
Workers expect employers to provide safe workplaces, including proper training and supervision to prevent injuries. When an employer fails to live up to their expectations resulting in a workplace accident, the injured worker may be able to seek damages.