Employee or Contractor?

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Many people who work for cash without getting an actual paycheck – with taxes withheld and deductions for insurance and retirement – may not be covered by workers’ compensation if they are hurt on the job.

If you work for yourself, hiring yourself out by the job, and supplying your own tools, you are probably an independent contractor. Plumbers and home improvement contractors who bid their work to homeowners are examples of this, and an independent contractor is responsible for providing his own workers compensation insurance or going without it if he works for himself. However, if a person works in the same business as his employer, his employer supplies tools and materials, and instructs him where to be, at what time, and how to do a job, he is probably an employee, regardless of whether he gets a regular paycheck or is paid in cash.

Employees are covered by workers’ compensation law, even though their employer may not have workers’ compensation insurance. For serious injuries that may costs thousands of dollars for medical treatment, and months or even years off from work, a workers’ compensation claim can be brought against the employer for permanent disability, lost wages, and the costs of medical treatment. Insurance coverage can sometimes be found through an “up-the-ladder” general contractor on a job, or by bringing a workers’ compensation claim against the Uninsured Employers’ Fund, a branch of state government, for payment of the employer’s liability. You should discuss your case with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you have been disabled by a workplace injury, even if you have been told that there is no insurance coverage.

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