Who Is Considered an Employee for a Workers’ Compensation Claim?


Understanding who qualifies as an employee under California law for workers' compensation claims is crucial for workers and employers. Workers' compensation is a form of insurance that provides financial assistance and medical care for employees who sustain injuries while on the job. This coverage is a fundamental right for employees within an organization, allowing those injured to receive the support they need without the burden of excessive medical bills or lost wages.

However, the application of this coverage is not always straightforward. Sometimes, business owners may not recognize certain workers as employees, such as family members, or they may intentionally misclassify individuals as independent contractors. This misclassification can be an attempt to bypass the obligation of securing workers' compensation coverage for them, which, while financially beneficial for the employer in the short term, can lead to significant legal and financial repercussions.

If you are navigating the complexities of a workers’ compensation claim in Glendale or believe that you have been misclassified, call Law Offices of Wax & Wax at (818) 946-0608 or contact us online to discuss your case.

Understanding California Labor Code § 3351

California Labor Code § 3351 delineates who is considered an employee for workers' compensation purposes. This legal framework is crucial for allowing individuals injured on the job to receive appropriate medical care and financial support.

According to this section, an "employee" encompasses anyone in the service of an employer under any appointment or contract of hire, irrespective of the legality of the employment. This broad definition extends protections to a wide range of workers, ensuring that they are covered under workers' compensation insurance if they sustain work-related injuries or illnesses.

It’s essential to break down the critical components of this statute to understand the full scope of who is considered an employee under the law:

  • Persons, regardless of citizenship status
  • Minors
  • Elected and appointed paid public officers
  • Officers and members of boards of directors
  • Incarcerated individuals engaged in assigned work
  • Persons holding the power to revoke a trust
  • Persons committed to a hospital facility while engaged in assigned work

By including various categories of workers, the law acknowledges the diverse nature of employment and the importance of providing comprehensive protections to all individuals engaged in labor, regardless of their position, status, or circumstances.

Independent Contractors vs. Employees

Independent contractors are individuals or entities that provide goods or services under terms specified in a contract or agreement. They do not work regularly for an employer but operate under their own business or trade.

Three primary factors differentiate independent contractors from employees, notably in California, which adheres to a specific set of criteria known as the "ABC" test:

  • Autonomy from control. An individual is an independent contractor if they operate free from the direct control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work.
  • Business operation. The work performed by the individual is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
  • Customarily engaged. The person regularly operates within an independently established trade, occupation, or business closely related to their tasks.

This delineation holds significant implications for workers' compensation insurance. Unlike employees, independent contractors are not covered under workers’ compensation in California.

The misclassification of workers as independent contractors instead of employees can be contentious. Some employers may deliberately misclassify employees to sidestep the financial and administrative responsibilities associated with workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and other employee benefits.

Those who believe that they have been incorrectly classified can:

  • Research and document. Gather information and documentation that supports their position as an employee according to the criteria set forth by the ABC test. The State of California Department of Industrial Relations outlines the three-factor test to help determine a worker's correct status.
  • Seek legal advice. Consult with a lawyer who deals in labor law. An experienced attorney can analyze the situation in-depth and determine a practical action.

Family Members Working in the Business

Again, the definition of an employee in California is broad, encompassing anyone engaged or permitted to work by a business. Every employer using employee labor must secure workers' compensation insurance, irrespective of the worker's relationship to the business owner.

Essentially, if a family member performs tasks that contribute to the business, they are considered an employee for the purposes of workers' compensation. This inclusion is crucial for safeguarding family members against the financial hardships from work-related injuries or illnesses.

Protecting Rights and Navigating Claims

Workers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with their rights under California's workers' compensation laws. Knowledge of one's status as an employee or independent contractor and the accompanying rights to compensation and medical care in the event of a work-related injury is essential for safeguarding one's well-being and financial stability. Moreover, for those who may find themselves in ambiguous employment situations or suspect they have been misclassified, seeking clarification and legal recourse is a critical step toward fair treatment and access to entitled benefits.

The complexities of workers' compensation law necessitate professional guidance and support. Schedule a consultation with Law Offices of Wax & Wax to discuss your case. We provide representation in Glendale.

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