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Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Eligibility – Am I An Employee or an Independent Contractor?

Like all states, Massachusetts administers a workers’ compensation system to provide medical treatment and wage replacement for employees injured on the job.The agency responsible for administering the Massachusetts workers’ compensation program is the Department of Industrial Accidents, or DIA. If you are hurt on the job in Massachusetts, you may be entitled to a weekly benefit check as well as medical treatment.

To be eligible, however, you must be an employee rather than an independent contractor. The distinction betweenthe two is important. A business mayuse independent contractors to augment a regular work force or to do work that is outside its capacity.

Unfortunately though, businesses frequently try to classify workers as independent contractors when they are really employees. A business will do this for a variety of reasons, most of which amount to saving the business money. A business does not have the same obligations for an independent contractor that is has for employees. For example, a business does not have to provide unemployment compensation insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, or benefitssuch as paid vacation days to an independent contractor. In addition, an employer can use an independent contractor when work is plentiful and not use him or her when business is slow.

The Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law

The Internal Revenue Service has a long list of factors that can be used to determine whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor for tax purposes. Many states, including Massachusetts, have gone even further by enacting their own laws to define the two. The Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law, or MICL, providesa narrower definition of independent contractor than the IRS does. The Massachusetts law makes is all but impossible for a business to claim someone is an independent contractor if the person is providing services within the “normal course of business” for the company in question.

Under the MICL, a presumption exists that “an individual performing any service” is an employee. To overcome this presumption, the business claiming the individual is an independent contractor must establish:

(1)    that the worker is free from its control and direction in performing the service, both under a contract and in fact;

(2)    that the service provided by the worker is outside the employer’s usual course of business; and

(3)    that the worker is customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession or business of the same type.

Along with this three-prong test under the MICL, additional provisions effectively exclude more workers from independent contractor status than either the IRS test or a long-standing common law test for independent contractor status. For example, under the MICL, a contract for employment or job description that indicates that a worker will be free from supervisory direction or control is required to officially establish independent contractor status. Factors such as not withholding taxes or not paying workers’ compensation insurance on a worker are not considered when determining a worker’s status. In other words, just because an employer thinks a worker is an independent contractor and acts on that belief doesn’t mean that the worker’s compensation system will agree.

Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

If you have been injured on the job in Massachusetts but are concerned about whether you are classified as an independent contractor or an employee, the Massachusetts workplace injury lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are here to help. We also may be able to help if your Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim has been denied because your employer contends that you are not an employee.  To learn about your legal options, call us at 800-367-0871 or use our online contact form.