It was just another day at work, and you were going about your usual tasks. You never anticipated getting injured on the job, but it happened. After a trip to the emergency room, numerous doctor visits, and a week of time off from work, the medical bills are piling up and the mortgage payment is due in two weeks. Your sister had a work injury a year ago, and you knew her employer paid the extra expenses caused by the injury. You just assumed your employer would take care of your expenses too. However, today you received a letter saying that your employer is denying your workers’ compensation benefits. They claim you are an independent contractor and ineligible. You have never even considered yourself an independent contractor. Now what?
Your employer is right that workers’ compensation benefits can be denied if you are an independent contractor. However, determining whether a person is an independent contractor or an employee is not always as clear cut as your employer may want you to believe.
Whether you are an employee or an independent contractor depends more on the nature of your relationship with your employer than the label your employer has given you. This means that the court will look at the actual conduct of the employer rather than if you were called an “independent contractor.” Generally, under Minnesota workers’ compensation, the court will weigh these factors to determine whether the conduct indicates if you are an independent contractor or an employee: control, payment, source of tools and materials, control of the premises, discharge. See full Characteristics Chart.
Of these factors, the court gives the most weight to control. It is important to understand that even if the factors seem to indicate you are an independent contractor, the court could still find that you are an employee. For example, taxes may not be taken out of your check, you supply your own tools, and have a say over the premises. However, if your employer clearly controls when, how, and where you do the work and there is a contract that creates legal liability if either of you terminate the relationship early, the court could still find that you are an employee and eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.