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What makes someone an independent contractor in a work injury?

As we discussed in a previous post, independent contractors are typically exempt from workers' compensation. However, sometimes employers try to misclassify their employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying for their workers' compensation premiums.

A company may create a written agreement with a worker labeling them as an "independent contractor," but this designation alone is insufficient to classify them as such. The distinction really comes down to the terms of an individual's work. In today's post, we outline some core qualifying traits of an independent contractor:

  • Flexible work arrangement: In independent contractor has the power to work independently. They may set their own hours. They usually work from their own office--either at home or elsewhere. They also have the freedom to determine how best to tackle their assigned project and achieve the desired outcome. An employer does not dictate these terms.
  • Materials and equipment: An independent contractor is responsible for providing any materials or equipment necessary to complete the job. They incur the costs for any such materials themselves.
  • Different pay structure: An independent contractor is not salaried and usually is not paid hourly. They are not eligible for overtime pay. Instead, they usually receive a fixed payment to complete a particular project or job for which they were hired.

Georgia Workers' Compensation law has a detailed definition for what qualifies as an independent contractor.  You can read the complete legal definition here (see subsection (d) and (e)).  An independent contractor has control over the time, manner, and method of when and how work is performed.  An employee, on the other hand, is told by the employer when where and how to work.  

Some employers try to avoid being responsible for work injury claims by claiming the worker is an independent contractor by paying them cash or 1099 while telling the worker when, where and how to work.  In those cases, the worker would be considered an employee and entitled to workers' compensation benefits.  If this has happened to you and you've been injured on the job, but your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor, it's worth consulting with an attorney experienced in workers' compensation law to better understand your rights and recourse.  #workerscomp #workmanscomp

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