Housekeeper's status as nonemployee washes away claim for benefits
Case name: Lopez v. Moser, No. A-1535-09T2 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 07/08/10, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that an injured housekeeper was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits.
What it means: In New Jersey, housekeepers with informal businesses are not treated as the employees of their customers and are therefore ineligible for workers' compensation benefits.
Summary: A housekeeper and a friend started a business but did not form a licensed business enterprise. Their customers provided the cleaning supplies and did not withhold unemployment deductions, Social Security, or taxes from payments. While cleaning a customer's kitchen, the housekeeper fell off a chair and injured her arm. The parties disputed whether the housekeeper should have been considered an employee of her customer. The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division decided that the housekeeper was an independent contractor and not eligible for workers' compensation from the customer.
The court noted that the housekeeper performed her tasks without supervision and the customer paid the housekeepers as a business service and not as individuals. Although the customer provided the cleaning supplies, which is typical in an employer-employee arrangement, that fact was inadequate to establish the customer's control of the work.
The court also concluded that cleaning the customer's house was not integral to any "regular business" of the housekeeper. There was also "scant proof" that the housekeeper substantially depended economically on the customer because the customer paid $60 biweekly which was divided between the housekeeper and her friend.
The housekeeper urged the court to treat her as an employee for policy reasons. Treating housekeepers who run informal businesses as employees of their customers could lead to problematic consequences, the court stated.
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September 30, 2010
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