Under Georgia laws, employees are covered under a benefits system called workers' compensation that entitles them to have their medical bills paid after a work injury. Employees are also provided with temporary or permanent benefits for total or partial disability as well as various other types of compensation.
The key word here, however, is that EMPLOYEES are covered. Those who perform work but who are not classified as employees aren't entitled to workers' compensation benefits and after a work injury are either on their own in paying for the costs or are left to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against one or more parties, which requires a showing of negligence that is not required in workers' comp cases.
Because the employee designation is so important, our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys urge every employee and every employer to understand exactly when someone is classified as an employee.
Understanding Your Classification
In many cases, whether someone is an employee or not is a relatively straightforward question. If someone is hired to work full time, given a salary or a regular hourly wage and has no designated end date in site for the work term, that person is pretty obviously an employee.
However, there are plenty of situations where things become much more complicated. For example:
- One issue is the holiday season that is slowly drawing to a close. Employers tend to bring in temporary help during the holidays, such as hiring more people for the big shopping season.
- Seasonal employees also raise more complicated questions. For example, if a business hires snowplow workers in the winter but doesn't need them in the summer, these employees have a designated work period but not an indefinite gig.
The Rules for Independent Contractors
If you are hired and aren't certain whether you are an employee or not, it is helpful to understand some of the basic rules that have been developed. In general:
- Temporary employees, seasonal employees and part time employees are all covered under workers' compensation.
- Independent contractors are NOT covered under workers' compensation.
An independent contractor is someone who performs work for a company but who maintains their autonomy. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets forth some guidelines for when someone is considered an independent contractor, as opposed to an employee. These guidelines look at:
- Whether the company has the right to control the behavior of the worker or whether the company just issues an assignment and the worker has autonomy to do the assignment when and how he wants.
- Whether the company has control over how the worker is paid or whether the worker sets his own rates, pays his own expenses, etc.
- What type of relationship the employer and worker has, including whether there are written contracts and whether the work performed by the worker is a key aspect of the business.
These and other issues can be considered in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor for workers' compensation purposes. Being incorrectly classified can result in a worker being deprived of workers' compensation benefits and can be detrimental to the rights of the worker. Those who believe they have been incorrectly classified, therefore, need to get legal help to determine if they really are entitled to workers' compensation benefits.