Injuries in the workplace can be severe and require immediate medical attention. During the stressful time of obtaining the necessary care, the last thing an injured worker wants to hear is that they’ve been denied workers’ compensation benefits because of their employee status. Many workers are happy to have a full-time job that pays the bills and are not even aware they are classified by their employer not as a full-time employee, but as an independent contractor. Unfortunately, as in any time of economic turmoil, many employers falsely label workers as independent contractors to save money on benefits and insurance costs, including workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Luckily, there are steps that workers can take before and after they suffer an injury in the workplace to protect themselves and ensure that they are classified correctly.
Independent Contractor versus Employee
Under Illinois law, companies who have just one employee must carry workers’ compensation coverage. However, employers who hire independent contractors do not have to carry such insurance for those workers. Independent contractors are defined as persons or businesses who perform services for another person under an express or implied agreement and who are not subject to the other’s control, or right to control, the manner and means of performing the services. These types of agreements specifically exclude independent contractors from being classified as employees.
Misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor is against the law, yet many workers do not discover the error until they have some reason to collect on the employer’s insurance, such as after a workplace accident. If it is discovered that an employer has misclassified its employees, however, stiff penalties can apply so many employers are careful not to draw attention to this “error.” Employers in the past have been found to engage in highly unusual behavior to help their insurance fraud go unnoticed, such as paying out of pocket for any worker’s injury, or falsely claiming that an injured worker has been performing poorly so that he or she may be terminated.
Denial of Benefits
Oftentimes a worker who is injured is not seeking anything more than to heal and return to work. Whether they are classified as an independent contractor or employee does not seem important so long as it does not affect the number of hours they work or their take home pay. However, when they are injured doing the work that they were hired to do and their employer does not provide the support they need to return to work, misclassification comes to the forefront of their concerns. Luckily, denying workers’ compensation benefits by engaging in fraudulent misclassification is not lawful and employees can seek to have their rightful benefits provided to them through the workers’ compensation system. Workers have the right to appeal any denial of benefits to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The worker can obtain the benefits he or she is entitled to plus interest in some cases.
If you or someone you love has been injured at work and their employer is refusing to provide the benefits they deserve, contact the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. in Antioch today. Our skilled attorneys can help guide you through the workers’ compensation system and help you obtain the peace of mind you need to help your family heal.