An Illinois court of appeals recently confirmed a decision by the Workers’ Compensation Commission that a truck driver was an employee, despite the trucking company’s argument that he was an independent contractor who was not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Under Illinois law, only employees are entitled to benefits, such as payment for medical bills and lost wages. So, whether you are an employee or an independent contractor has serious implications if you are injured on the job.
The general rule is that the more control your employer has over your work the more likely it is that you are an employee, and less control points to independent contractor status. This recent case is important for injured workers in Illinois. The truck driver had signed an independent contractor agreement and was paid as an independent contractor (no taxes deducted). Despite this evidence, the arbitrator found it more important that the truck driver was treated like an employee when he was working.
The policies that were applied to the driver and the way his work was controlled were key factors in the decision. The driver drove company trucks; the company paid for fuel and tolls and provided log books; the company required the driver to get prior authorization for any truck repairs; the driver called in regularly to check if work was available; and the driver was paid on Fridays, which was pay day for company employees.
The arbitrator determined that the company had sufficient control over the driver’s work to put him in the category of employee rather than independent contractor. The arbitrator found the signed independent contractor agreement invalid because the driver did not speak English. The driver was awarded temporary total disability (TTD) payments, which gives workers a portion of their wages while they are unable to work.
The label that your employer puts on your job or position is not always accurate. In some cases, the employer might be trying to get around the law by using the term “independent contractor” much too broadly. Other times, the employer might not know the difference.
The bottom line is that the way your work is controlled is more important that your job title. It’s not always crystal clear, which is why it’s a good idea to talk to a workers’ comp attorney if you have questions, especially if your benefits are denied because your employer claims you’re an independent contractor.
We are workers' compensation attorneys who help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.