When evaluating a workers’ compensation claim, it is important to understand that, in order for a work injury to be compensable, it must “arise out of and in the course of employment.” In order to fully justify a claim and avoid misinterpretation of the circumstances surrounding it, it is best that an injured employee notify his or her employer within a prescribed time after the injury or the onset of the initial symptoms. This notification should be made in writing on a special form. In the event the employer refuses to provide benefits, it is in the worker’s best interests to consult with a lawyer, who can then request a hearing before the state board or commission of workers’ compensation.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has ruled the state’s independent contractor statute does not determine whether a claimant is an employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in a case that has led to questions about worker misclassification.
“Worker misclassification is a serious problem, both in our Commonwealth and across the nation,” SJC Chief Justice Ralph Gants wrote in a concurring opinion regarding the case.
This issue has come to light after a recent case involving claimant Ives Camargo, in which she sought review of a decision made by the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents regarding a claim she made for workers’ compensation benefits.
The board had affirmed the findings of an administrative judge by concluding Camargo was an independent contractor not entitled to workers’ compensation. Its decision was based on the definition of an employee in Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation statute.
The law governing employment relations in this state remains far from uniform.
After Camargo appealed, the case was transferred to the SJC, which upheld the decision that she is an independent contractor not eligible for workers’ compensation.
In the wake of the case, however, Gants called for the Massachusetts Legislature to consider greater uniformity among laws that classify workers. He added that part of the challenge in preventing misclassification is that there is no uniform definition of an employee. Instead, the law defines employees and independent contractors by several different standards depending on the context.
“In 2004, the Massachusetts Legislature took a significant step toward harmonizing these standards, amending the independent contractor statute…so that its presumption in favor of employee status applied not only to the wage and hour laws….but also to the minimum wage and overtime laws,” Gants wrote. “However, the law governing employment relations in this state remains far from uniform.”
For this or any other legal issue, please call LEBHERZ & LEBHERZ, Attorneys at Law, at (508) 548-6600 to schedule a consultation to review the details of your case. We are located at Old Bailey Court, 99 Town Hall Square.