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U.S. Supreme Court Declines To Hear Case Involving Illinois Employee Classification Act

Casey Woodruff

The Illinois Employee Classification Act governs the classification of persons working in the construction industry.  The Act imposes penalties for improperly classifying persons as independent contractors when they should be classified as employees.  Under the Act, individuals performing services for construction contractors are presumed to be employees of the contractor.

Nevertheless, if an individual meets certain criteria, as specified under the Act, then the individual may be considered an independent contractor. These criteria include whether:

  • The individual is free from control or direction of the performance of services;
  • The service performed is outside the usual course of services performed;
  • The individual is engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business; and
  • The individual is deemed a legitimate sole proprietor or partner.

The Illinois Employee Classification Act places significant restrictions on a contractor’s ability to classify a worker as an independent contractor. These restrictions led one construction company to challenge the constitutionality of the Act.A contractor would rather have an individual classified as an independent contractor because it significantly reduces benefits and minimizes a contractor’s liability related to the individual’s employment, including not being liable for injuries sustained on the job. Indeed, independent contractors are not protected under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Many unscrupulous employers in the construction industry slap the “independent contractor” label on their employees to save money and increase profits. These contractors leave their employees high and dry when they are injured doing labor intensive and dangerous construction work.

Construction Company Challenged

In September 2008, the Illinois Department of Labor investigated Rhonda and Jack Bartlow’s construction company, Jack’s Roofing, for allegations of misclassifying its employees as independent contractors under the Act.  Through its investigation, the Department concluded that the company misclassified 10 individuals for periods ranging from 8 to 160 days.  The Department calculated a potential penalty of $1.683 million.

The construction company owners filed an action against the Department in the circuit court, challenging the constitutionality of the Act on the basis that the Act subjects the construction industry to more stringent employment standards than other industries, and also violates due process and equal protection rights.  The trial court found the Act to be valid and enforceable, and the appellate court affirmed the decision.

Illinois Supreme Court Upholds the Act and U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Issue

The case went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.  In short, the Court rejected the construction company’s facial constitutional challenges to the Act.

The plaintiffs appealed their decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Last month, however, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the construction company’s one final chance when it declined to hear the issue. The U.S. Supreme Court did not provide any reason for its decision.

Contact an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

If you were injured while working on a construction job and your employer classified you as an independent contractor, contact an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney today to see what rights you may have.  The Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys at Woodruff Johnson & Palermo will help protect your rights if you were injured on the job as an independent contractor.  Call or visit one of our offices in Aurora, Champaign, or Chicago for a free initial consultation.

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