James enjoys being out on the road. As an owner/operator, he gets to determine his own routes for his deliveries. He gets to pick and choose the trips he wants to take. He also owns the truck he uses for his deliveries and controls all the details of its maintenance.
James is able to do all of these things in this work as a truck driver because he is an independent contractor, and he clearly likes the “independence” of that.
On a cross-country trip last year, however, James suffered an injury and subsequently filed a worker’s compensation claim to try and recoup some of his lost wages. His claim was denied so he filed an appeal.
At his hearing, James claimed that he was an employee of the company that sent him on that trip but the company responded that he was, in fact, an independent contractor.
In this case, having “independent contractor” status worked against James. You see, if James were an employee of the company, he would have been entitled to worker’s compensation; as an independent contractor, he was not.
Employee versus Independent Contractor
So how is the determination made as to whether you are an employee or independent contractor? Not to get too technical about it, but as an independent contractor, you basically have the right to direct the operation and determine the method, manner and means of performing your contractual obligations. You also generally use your own equipment and set your own hours of work.
The question of whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee is fact-specific and the common question would be: Who had the right to control the manner and means of doing the work? When making this determination, multiple factors are considered, including:
- Who controls the details and quality of the work.
- Who controls the hours worked.
- Who selects the materials and tools and personnel used.
- Who selects the routes traveled.
- Who determines the length of employment.
- Who selects the method of payment.
- And any pertinent agreements or contracts, such as an agreement stating you are an independent contractor.
Using James as an example, he owned the truck and was responsible for paying for all expenses related to it. The company didn’t require him to take a specific route to make his deliveries. He was paid by the job and at the end of the year, the company provided him with a form 1099 for tax purposes. James reported himself as “self-employed” on his tax returns, so he was not entitled to worker’s comp.
If you are a truck driver and are not sure, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.
Steven D. Maas grew up in Newton Falls, Ohio, and worked in the steel mills as a young man. It was there where he decided that he wanted to become a lawyer who would help working people. After earning is undergraduate degree from Ashland College and his law degree from the Wake Forest University School of Law, Steven has stuck to that mission by concentrating his practice in the area of workers’ compensation law over the course of his 35-year career. In addition to his legal practice, Steven serves as an Acting Judge in the Newton Falls Municipal Court, actively belongs to several bar organizations and contributes to the Diabetes Association by participating in fund-raising bicycle rides. However, his main passion is operating his family’s 250-acre farm in Newton Falls.