Case Before Appeals Court May Influence Worker Compensation Coverage

A case currently before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals — the last step before possible review by the Supreme Court — may affect many Worker eligibility for Worker compensation coverage. The case, Scantland v. Knight, involves some 180 cable technicians in Florida who sued Knight Enterprises for improperly classifying them as independent contractors rather than employees.

Companies have an incentive to classify their workers as independent contractors whenever possible because independent contractors are not covered by a variety of laws that protect employees, including Worker compensation. It also means that these workers do not pay payroll taxes and are not eligible for health care coverage or unemployment benefits. If an independent contractor injures a third party, the employer cannot be held responsible.

The question of whether an individual worker is an employee or independent contractor depends on six criteria, which together make up the economic realities test. The trial court judge found that the cable company’s workers were independent contractors as a matter of law, but the workers appealed, arguing that the judge should have looked at what the workers did on a day-to-day basis, rather than reading their contracts with the cable company.

The question of whether cable technicians are employees or independent contractors has been the subject of some 20 cases around the country, with a variety of results. Because this case has been brought in federal court, rather than in the Florida courts, the result will not necessarily settle the question in Florida, but it will still have major implications, whichever way it is decided. It will affect not only cable technicians, but also any worker who could be argued to be an independent contractor.

If your employer has made you an independent contractor, even though you work all your hours for one company, you should discuss your situation with an experienced Florida attorney. If you are classified as an independent contractor, and you are injured while on-the-job, you will be responsible for your own medical bills and lost income.

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