Shared control of worker, benefit from his work reveal joint employment
Whitman's Case, No. 10-P-71 (Mass. App. Ct. 09/06/11).
Ruling: The Massachusetts Appeals Court held that a worker was entitled to benefits and medical expenses.
What it means:
In Massachusetts, separate entities can constitute joint employers if they share control of a worker and the benefits of his work.
Summary: A construction worker fell 14 feet when a scaffold collapsed while he was working on a building two owners intended to divide into two condominium units and resell. The worker underwent two surgeries and was totally incapacitated for three months. He was partially disabled and limited to sedentary work. The worker sought benefits from the two owners. The owners characterized him as an independent contactor. The worker previously frequently worked on construction projects for the owners, who paid him weekly, furnished the materials and supplies, and assigned him to specific tasks. The Massachusetts Appeals Court held that the owners were joint employers, and the worker was entitled to disability benefits and medical expenses.
The court said the administrative judge did not err when he assigned greater weight to the factors showing the duration, continuity, and near exclusivity of the working relationship, as well as the absence of a contract and the resulting exposure of the worker to at-will termination, and the payment to him as an individual.
One owner argued that the worker was not a joint employee of both owners. The court disagreed. The worker was injured at a job site planned for purchase by both owners, the owners shared the expenses of the work, and the owners would each own half of the completed renovation. The court found that no authority supported the owner's contention that joint employers must have the same ownership, management, and finances. The court explained that separate entities can be joint employers and that shared control and benefit characterize joint employment. Here, the two owners controlled the assignment of the worker's work and received the benefit of it at the time and place of his injury.
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October 17, 2011
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