Failure to deny employee status does not admit employment relationship
Case name: Flores-Coyotl v. Mid Atlantic Mechanical, Inc., 25 PAWCLR 11 (Pa. W.C.A.B. 2010).
Ruling: The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Appeals Board upheld the denial of a plumber's petition for benefits because he did not establish an employer-employee relationship.
What it means:
In Pennsylvania, an employer's failure to specifically deny the existence of an employment relationship does not automatically admit an employment relationship existed. To establish an employer-employee relationship, a worker must show that the employer exercised sufficient control over his work.
Summary: A plumber injured his arm and filed a claim petition alleging that he sustained an on-the-job injury. The plumber's petition was denied because he was not an employee of the company. The company's owner stated that the plumber and his workers arrived at a jobsite one day and asked to work. He stated that he hired the plumber as a contractor and that even though he provided the large tools, he did not supply the hand tools, a truck, or training.
The plumber argued that the company admitted the existence of an employment relationship by failing to deny it in its answer to his petition. The board affirmed the denial of benefits. The board explained that while generally an answer to a claim petition must specifically identify the allegations that are being denied, it is not required to deny the existence of an employment relationship because it involves a legal conclusion.
The plumber also alleged that the company referred to him as an employee in its answer and that it therefore admitted an employment relationship existed. The board rejected his argument, determining that generally under the law, a party's overall characterizations in its pleadings do not constitute admissions of legal matters.
The board noted the plumber did not submit sufficient evidence of the company's control over his work to support his argument that he was an employee. He did not submit paystubs or tax forms. He also failed to assert that the company controlled his hours or working conditions, supervised him, or established his work rules.
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March 22, 2010
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