INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS MAY BE ENTITLED TO MASSACHUSETTS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS

gavel-5-1409595-mIn September of 2014, Massachusetts received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to enforce activities centered on worker misclassification detection.   The Massachusetts wage and hour laws allow workers who have been misclassified as independent contractors to bring lawsuits seeking monetary compensation against their employers.  Those employers who have wrongly classified their employees as independent contractors are obligated to provide workers’ compensation benefits to those misclassified employees who are injured during the course of their employment.

The Massachusetts independent contractor statute makes it difficult for an employer to classify a worker as an independent contractor.  Employers who misclassify an employee as an independent contractor may be subject to triple damages in accordance with Massachusetts wage and hour laws.  When determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee for purposes of workers’ compensation entitlement three issues will be taken into consideration according to M.G.L.A. c. 149 § 148B.  1.) Is the worker free from the company’s control and direction in connection with the performance or service; 2.) Is the service performed by the worker outside the usual course of the company’s business; and 3.) Is the worker customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the services performed. Massachusetts’s law creates a very strong presumption that any worker providing a service for anyone is an employee.  Thus, in order to be found as an independent contractor the employer must demonstrate all three prongs in his favor.  Those misclassified as independent contractors but who are by law employees are entitled to Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits.

Massachusetts’s laws provide a minimum set of standards for when, how and how much employees must be paid.  As of Jan.1, 2015, M.G.L.A. c. 151 sets the minimum wage at $9.00 per hour and under M.G.L.A. c. 149 § 148 the employee must be paid weekly or bi-weekly; wages must include payment for all hours worked, including tips, earned vacation pay, holiday pay, and definitively determined and due commission.  If misclassified as an independent contractor the damages incurred equal the value of wages and benefits the worker should have received as an employee, but did not.  Thus, the damage incurred is not measured by subtracting the compensation the worker obtained as an independent contractor from the compensation the worker would have received as an employee.  This means even if you are being paid more as an independent contractor than you would be as an employee you are still entitled to the value of wages and benefits you would have received as an employee.  The fact that an employer would have paid a worker less if he or she had been classified as an employee is irrelevant in the calculation of damages.  A worker found to be misclassified as an independent contractor will be awarded triple damages once calculated, costs, and attorney fees.

If your employer has labeled you as an independent contractor, it is possible you have been misclassified and are entitled to employee wages, benefits, and workers compensation (if you have been injured during the course of your employment). For further information please call our Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys today.   All consultations are free.