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Workers’ Compensation and Independent Contractors

Casey Woodruff

undefinedIf you are doing work for someone and you are classified as an independent contractor, are you entitled to workers’ compensation benefits? Generally speaking, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/) does not permit an independent contractor to receive workers’ compensation benefits if that independent contractor sustains an injury while she is performing the services for which she is being paid. For instance, if an independent contractor in Chicago does freelance work as a technical writer and begins suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome because of that work, it is unlikely that she will be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits.

Are You an Employee or an Independent Contractor?

While some scenarios seem relatively straightforward when it comes to determining whether an injured worker will be classified as an employee or an independent contractor, many situations are not always clear.   In determining whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor the Illinois Courts will consider the following:

  • Does the business have control over (or the right to control) the manner in which you do your job, including the hours you work?  The more control the business has over the worker, the more likely the worker will be deemed an employee.  This is the most important factor the courts consider.
  • Does the business provide training to the worker?   If so, this indicates employer/employee relationship.
  • Does the business reimburse your expenses or provide you with supplies for the work you are doing? When a business has control over financial aspects of a worker’s job, it is possible that the worker should be classified as an employee.
  • Does the business withhold taxes or provide you with benefits, such as insurance, sick leave pay, or a pension plan? When a business provides benefits to a worker, that relationship tends to look like one between an employer and an employee.
  • How does the business issue payment?  An individual paid hourly or salary, on a regular schedule is more likely to be classified as an employee.  Whereas, an individual who is paid on a “per job” basis looks more like and independent contractor.

Keep in mind that there is no set formula to make this determination.  The inquiry is very fact specific.  The courts will weigh all of the factors and make this determination based on the totality of the circumstances.

Employers Must Obey the Workers’ Compensation Act

Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, employers cannot knowingly classify a worker as an independent contractor in order to avoid having to provide workers’ compensation benefits. Indeed, Section 26 of the Act emphasizes that the “misclassification of employees as independent contractors” can result in penalties.

If you suffered an injury while you were working and you have questions about whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, you should contact an experienced Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. An aggressive personal injury attorney at Woodruff Johnson & Evans can speak with you today.

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