In 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislature implemented the Construction Workplace Misclassification Act. The Act provided certain protections to injured workers and limited the situations in which an employer could hide behind designating an employee as an "independent contractor".
Under the Pa Workers' Comp Act, only workers designated as "employees" are eligible for workers' compensation wage loss or medical benefits. On the contrary, if a worker is an "independent contractor", he or she is not eligible for WC benefits. In most industries and fields, there is usually little doubt about the existence of an employment relationship. In the field of construction, the existence of this relationship is often open to more debate. Because of this ambiguity, the Workplace Misclassification Act was drafted.
The Act defines construction as any work involving "erection, reconstruction, demolition, alteration, modification, custom fabrication, building, assembling, site preparation, and repair work done on any real property or premises under contract, whether or not work is for a public body and paid for from public funds". This definition seems intentionally broad to ensure that any worker who suffers an injury in a field related to a construction job could be eligible for workers' compensation benefits if he or she meets the criteria.
The Act states that unless the employer can show the following, the worker will not be designated as an independent contractor and will instead be an employee. The criteria are:
"1. The individual (injured worker) has a written contract to perform such services;
2. The individual is free from control or direction over performance of such services both under the contract of service and in fact;
3. As to such services, the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession of business."
This Act offers broad protection to injured workers. If you were injured on a construction job, even if you were labeled as an independent contractor, it is possible that a workers' compensation judge could find an employment relationship which would provide eligibility for benefits under the PA Workers' Compensation Act.
It is important to reach out to an experienced workers' compensation attorney as early as possible to ensure that your rights are being protected. It is also important to realize that even if you were in fact working as an independent contractor, you may have a claim for your injury based on negligence or some other theory of premises or product liability. The experienced team of workers compensation attorneys at Schmidt Kramer can evaluate your claim from the perspective of workers' compensation or liability based upon negligence. If you've been hurt in Dauphin, Lebanon, Schuylkill, Lancaster, or York County, reach out immediately for a free consultation.