2 years of regular employment show employer-employee relationship
Case name: Archie v. Edward Kirk d/b/a Kirk Contracting, No. COA11-436 (N.C. Ct. App. 12/20/11).
Ruling: The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that a worker was an employee of a contractor, and he was entitled to benefits.
What it means: In North Carolina, an employer-employee relationship can exist when the worker is regularly employed by the employer, the worker is paid by the hour, and the employer provides the tools for the job.
Summary: A self-employed contractor changed billboard advertisements for advertising companies. He often required help. A worker met the contractor through a friend and began helping him hang the signs. The worker never submitted an employment application or signed an employment contract. For one job, the contractor hired three people to assist him, including the worker. The worker went to the top of the billboard. When he was holding a metal pole, it touched an adjacent power line, and the worker was electrocuted. His leg became caught on the top of the billboard, and his body caught on fire. He was hospitalized for two months. He sought workers' compensation benefits. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to benefits.
The court concluded that an employer-employee relationship existed. The contractor sometimes paid the worker a lump-sum amount, but he was often paid by the hour. The court also noted that the worker was regularly, although intermittently, hired by the contractor for two years.
The court also said that the contractor exercised little supervision over the worker. The contractor transported the worker to jobsites and provided the tools necessary for the job. Therefore, the worker's performance of his duties lacked the independence necessary for classification as an independent contractor.
The contractor argued that the evidence did not show that all of the worker's medical problems stemmed from his work-related injury. The worker received treatment for preexisting conditions and other conditions. The court said that the medical evidence established that the worker was temporarily totally disabled as a result of his compensable injury. The court could not rule on whether the other conditions were compensable because the Industrial Commission did not make a ruling on the specific medical conditions for which the worker was entitled to compensation.
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January 30, 2012
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