Company's control of itinerary, route make truck driver employee
Concert Systems USA, Inc. v. Weaver, No. 2009-WC-00835-COA (Miss. Ct. App. 05/11/10).
Ruling: The Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld an administrative law judge's ruling that the claimant qualified as an employee and that the employer had the required number of employees to subject it to the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act. The claimant was therefore entitled to workers' compensation benefits for his injuries.
What it means: The WCA limits awards of benefits to workers who are employees, specifically excluding independent contractors. Regardless of contractual status, if the company fully controls the details of the work, the worker is an employee.
Summary: A truck driver worked for Concert Systems USA Inc., a company that provides equipment for bands, on an as-needed basis. The driver was injured in a traffic accident while working for the company and applied for benefits. The company opposed the application, arguing that the driver was an independent contractor. It also argued that it was not subject to the WCA because it had too few employees. An ALJ sided with the driver and awarded benefits. The Court of Appeals upheld the award, concluding that because the company controlled the details of the driver's work, he qualified as an employee for purposes of workers' compensation.
The court pointed out that the worker "was given instructions on when to leave and arrive, the route to take, and where to spend the night." Concert Systems provided all the equipment used on the job and had the right to fire the driver. All these factors pointed to an employer-employee relationship. Although the relationship had some elements of an independent contractor relationship, such as working on an as-needed basis, enough evidence existed to support the ALJ's finding that the driver was an employee.
The court also found that the company had six, not four, employees. The company's owner and vice president, neither of whom received a salary, paid their car and home loans from company funds. This made them employees, raising the total number from four to six. As a result, it was subject to the WCA's provisions.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 9, 2010
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