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Elms v. Renewal by Anderson: Common Law Employee Versus Independent Contractor Status

Our workplace accident lawyers understand that employers may try to allege that their workers are independent contractors in order to avoid paying benefits.

constructionhatsmall.jpgIn Elms v. Renewal by Anderson, a case from the Maryland Court of Appeals, the court decided on issues pertaining to whether an injured worker was an employee of the defendant or an independent contractor.

According to the record, the plaintiff was a licensed home improvement contractor. He was the owner and operator of a home improvement business. Some of the services he provided were the installation and restoration of windows and doors and general carpentry.
In the years before doing with business with the defendant, the plaintiff maintained a workers’ compensation insurance policy for business. However, the plaintiff was never a beneficiary of the plan, nor was any of his other employees. The only one on the plan was the plaintiff’s son.

The defendant, a retail seller of windows and doors, hired the plaintiff to install their products for customers. The plaintiff assured the defendant that his company carried a workers’ compensation policy. The defendant gave the plaintiff a set of standards and instructions as to how the windows and doors would be installed.

The defendant also required that the plaintiff’s employees wear shirts with the defendant’s logo and be respectful to customers at all times. On some of the first window and door installation jobs, the defendant would have its employees train the plaintiff and his employees on how the products were to be installed and what material was to be used. The defendant also inspected the plaintiff’s work to make sure it was being completed according to these instructions.

The plaintiff earned all but 10 to 15 percent of his income from this contract and worked for the defendant at least four days a week.

During one job, the plaintiff fell off a ladder and hurt his foot. He filed a workers’ compensation claim asserting that he was an employee of the defendant. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was an independent contractor and not an employee who is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

The workers’ compensation commission decided that the plaintiff was an independent contractor who was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The plaintiff appealed this decision. The circuit court found that the plaintiff was a common law employee entitled to workers’ compensation. The defendant appealed this ruling.

Ultimately, the state court of appeals held that the plaintiff was an employee of the defendant and was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In determining whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor, the court will look at the level of control the worker has over the job. In this case, the plaintiff had to show up when and where he was told, wearing a shirt with the defendant’s logo, place signs with the defendant’s logo in the customer’s lawn, and install the windows the manner he was told with the materials he was told to use.

Normally, when a homeowner hires a contractor to install windows or a door in his or her home, the homeowner does not supervise every aspect of the job, does not tell the contractor how to install the window, and does not make him wear any specific clothing. It is pretty clear that the plaintiff was the defendant’s employee. As an employee injured on the job, he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim: 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Elms v. Renewal by Anderson, July 21, 2014, Maryland Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:

Filing a Civil Lawsuit and a Workers’ Compensation Claim: On Serious or Willful Misconduct, July 17, 2014, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog