Cleaner's use of helpers indicates independent contractor status
Case name: Lukasik v. Holloway, No. A-5913-10T3 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 08/22/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that a house cleaner was not entitled to benefits because she was not an employee of the homeowners.
What it means: In New Jersey, an employer-employee relationship exists when the employer retains the right to control what work is done and how the work is done.
Summary: Homeowners contacted a house cleaner after receiving her business card advertising her services. The cleaner cleaned five other houses and an office building on a regular basis. The parties agreed that she would clean the home one day per week for $100. At the first cleaning, the cleaner arrived with a friend. She was not given specific instructions about where to start or how to do the cleaning. During the first hour, she fell off a stool while dusting and injured her hand. She went to the hospital for treatment.
After the incident, she resumed her cleaning services and returned to the homeowners' home.
Because of her injury, she could not personally clean the house, so she brought her daughter and friend. After the homeowners failed to pay her, she filed a workers' compensation claim. The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that the homeowners were not liable for benefits because she was an independent contractor and not an employee.
The control test indicated that the cleaner was an independent contractor. The homeowners retained some control over her performance of cleaning services such as when she would begin the work. However, the homeowners did not control how she would do the cleaning, what supplies she would use, or who would do the cleaning. The cleaner dictated what work she was willing to do and decided what supplies and equipment she would use.
The court said the fact that she provided her services through others strongly indicated her role as an independent business owner and contractor. The set price per cleaning, rather than wages, also indicated an independent contractor status.
The court also found the relative nature of the work test did not support a finding that the cleaner was an employee. The cleaner did not have a "substantial economic dependence" on the homeowners. She had other clients and continued to clean and earn income after her injury. Her cleaning of the homeowners' home was not an "integral part of the regular business" of the homeowners.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 1, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications