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Determining who is an employee under workers' compensation

When a Massachusetts resident is injured on the job, that person has two options for recovery. In many situations, an employee may take their employer to civil court to sue to recover for any injuries they suffered. For a party to recover in a civil court they must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, a threshold not everyone can meet. Unlike cases in a civil court, however, workers' compensation claims don't require a showing of fault for compensation to be granted. Besides suffering from a workplace injury, the Massachusetts resident must be an employee of an employer that has worker' compensation insurance.

Massachusetts law defines an employee in several ways, the most general being, "every person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written." This definition, while generally inclusive, is not without exceptions. The inclusiveness of the definition could result in situations of homeowners being held as employers of workers they employ for repairs. Determining sub and independent contractor employment status is a complicated issue.

The definition of employee includes those who are working in a volunteer function, and even students. Those students who are participating in a school-to-work program are able to claim workers' compensation benefits as if they were an employee of the company. Even a part-time domestic servant is eligible for workers' compensation.

Workers' compensation benefits reach almost everyone. Even family members helping out other family members may be considered employees under the workers' compensation law.

Source: malegisture.gov, "General Laws," Accessed Jan. 20, 2015

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