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Workers' compensation, independent contractors and subcontractors

One common dispute regarding workers' compensation benefits in Massachusetts is who is considered an employee and who is not. This is an important consideration when there is a person who is injured while working, and they need workers' compensation to determine if they are eligible for it. That eligibility can be a problem. In the state, an employee is a person who is in the service of another under any contract. That includes an oral contract, a written contract, express or implied.

There are certain automatic exemptions. They include seamen who are working in foreign or interstate commerce; salesmen how sell consumer goods or real estate and work on commission, sell or buy apart from retail and do so with a contract saying they are not employees; taxi drivers who lease their vehicles; and those who are working in foreign or interstate commerce and are covered by federal law for compensation or death.

With independent contractors, an employer who wants to have a worker classified as an independent contractor must show that the work was: done without the employer providing direction or control; was done outside the customary course of business; or was done by an individual with his or her own business or trade that does the work. Subcontractors can have money deducted for workers' compensation but only if it is in the contract or is specifically stated that it is being done. A subcontractor might be asked to provide proof that there is workers' compensation coverage to shield the contractor from liability.

For workers who are employed in any of the types of situations listed above, workers' compensation can be a concern when they are injured on the job. To fully understand whether the injured party is eligible for workers' compensation, it is wise to discuss the matter with an attorney who understands the laws and all the rules regarding which workers are entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

Source: Mass.gov, "Who is covered by workers' compensation insurance," accessed on Jan. 22, 2018

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