The Bollinger Law Firm, PC

In North Carolina, when does employer-employee relationship exist?

Those that have been injured on the job in North Carolina, or are suffering an illness that has left them unable to work, may qualify for workers' compensation. In North Carolina, workers' compensation is a type of insurance that is designed to protect both the worker and employer in case the employee sustains an injury or develops an illness in the workplace.

However, North Carolina worker's compensation law contains many legal complexities. One issue that comes up from time to time is what exactly constitutes an employer-employee relationship? For example, when a contractor hires workers, are they eligible for workers' compensation?

According to a recent North Carolina Court of Appeals decision, they likely would be. The decision stemmed from a case that involved a self-employed contractor who changed billboard advertisements for companies.

The man needed help to complete all of the billboards, so he would sometimes hire workers for this. He hired them somewhat informally, without using employment applications or contracts. One man that he hired was electrocuted and caught on fire when he went to the top of a billboard, holding a metal pole, and accidentally touched the pole to a power line.

The man was hospitalized for months and he filed for worker's compensation benefits, which the North Carolina Court of Appeals recently ruled he is entitled to receive.

The court stated that an employer-employee relationship exists when a worker is regularly employed by the employer, is paid hourly, and provided tools for the job by the employer.

In this man's case, he was sometimes paid in a lump-sum, and sometimes paid by the hour. He had been intermittently hired by the contractor over a two-year period, and he was also transported to jobsites and given tools by the contractor. Because of this, the worker himself could not be classified as an independent contractor--he was an employee of the independent contractor.

Source: Risk & Insurance, "2 years of regular employment show employer-employee relationship," Jan. 30, 2012

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