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Am I Eligible for Workers’ Comp Benefits if I Was Misclassified as a Contractor?

August 14, 2023

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As long as they are legally considered employees of a qualifying business, virtually all workers in Ohio are eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits.

However, there’s a large group of workers who are ineligible for benefits because they’re not considered employees. These workers are instead considered independent contractors, and they can range from semi-truck owner-operators and substitute teachers to tradesmen and rideshare drivers.

Unfortunately, some companies misclassify their workers as independent contractors to save money. When companies use independent contractors instead of employees, they save money on training, insurance, payroll taxes, and workers’ compensation insurance, just to name a few items.

When those workers get hurt on the job, they’re often immediately told by their supervisors that they’re ineligible for benefits—but that’s not always the case, as many injured employees may be misclassified as contractors. If you think you were misclassified as an independent contractor and you were hurt on the job, here’s what you need to know.

First, You Need to Meet a Few Requirements to Be Considered an Employee

Most independent contractors are correctly classified. However, some are misclassified, especially when their day-to-day work is extremely close or identical to the day-to-day work of actual employees who work for the same company or organization.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has a 20-factor test for determining a worker’s classification. If at least 10 of the 20 factors apply, they can and should be considered an employee—and thus eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Some of those factors include whether:

  • Your hours of work are established by the company
  • You are required to devote full-time hours and dedication to the company
  • You are required to make oral or written reports of progress to the company
  • Your expenses are paid for by the company (as opposed to a hiring company or another third party)
  • You are required to perform the work personally (i.e., not allowed to hire subcontractors to assist with or complete it)
  • You are required to work at/on the company’s premises

Keep in mind that receiving a Form 1099 at the end of a tax year (instead of a Form W-2), signing an independent contractor agreement with a company, and even agreeing to be classified as an independent contractor doesn’t set your classification in stone if you get injured while working and need benefits.

What to Do If You Believe You’ve Been Misclassified

It’s important to apply for benefits after a work injury if you are classified as an independent contractor but actually meet at least 10 of the BWC’s requirements to be classified as an employee. In fact, you may want to apply even if you believe you only meet a handful of them. That’s because closer inspection may reveal you meet more of the requirements than you initially believe.

Having an experienced Ohio workers’ compensation lawyer on your side can help you determine exactly which of the requirements you meet. It can also push the scale in your favor, as a lawyer can find evidence of you meeting certain requirements that may not be obvious to you or the company you work for.

You Also May Be Eligible for Benefits as a Domestic Work Contractor

Ohio’s workers’ compensation coverage requirements are broad, and they can include workers who many people assume aren’t covered. For example, if you work for a household or family as a:

  • cook,
  • gardener,
  • housekeeper,
  • or babysitter,

you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if you get injured on the job—even if the person or family you’re working for never purchased workers’ compensation benefits for you. According to the BWC, all domestic workers must be covered by workers’ compensation provided they were paid at least $160 in a given calendar quarter (13-week period).

You also may be covered if you provided home improvement or construction work services on a home and don’t own your own business or have your own workers’ compensation insurance.

Our Ohio Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Can Help You Get Benefits

Independent contractors fulfill important roles in Ohio’s economy. For many workers and businesses, the option of this arrangement is mutually beneficial, as it saves companies money and allows workers to maintain their freedom of the work they choose to complete and when/where they’re available to complete it.

But when the system is abused by employers, innocent workers can face significant difficulties, especially if they get hurt on the job. At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, it’s our goal to ensure misclassified workers get the benefits they’re owed after on-the-job injuries. It’s unfair when misclassified workers are denied the compensation they desperately need, and we work hard to right those wrongs throughout our state.

Contact our Ohio workers’ compensation attorneys anytime for a free case review. We know the BWC’s requirements and rules, and we know misclassification—and how to correct it—when we see it.

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