Are Uber Driver's Employees or Independent Contractors Under Workers' Compensation?

This is an interesting case that was in the news on May 7, 2015 and listed with Justia.com website. This is a noteworthy case for employees and independent contractors in the state of Alabama. Uber has been driving towards Alabama and trying to do business in the state for some time now. Mobile and Huntsville Alabama has worked hard at keeping Uber out of the state so far.

Additionally, this is always a question when someone is a contract worker. For instance, you may be a contract painter, plumber, or electrician on a job and get hurt. Can you sue the general contractor for worker’s compensation benefits? The answer always depends on the law and facts.

In the Uber case out of California, A driver was injured during the course of his employment. He was hit and attacked by a passenger in a car. He claimed that Uber listed employees as contract employees to avoid providing worker compensation benefits to injured workers.

A spokesperson for the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc., Burton said “while some states have laws that clarify whether someone is an employee or a contractor, the issue is unresolved in many jurisdictions.” California is a state where this issue is not clearly decided at the moment.

In the event the employee is successful in this case, Uber may be required to carry worker’s compensation liability coverage for all of their drivers. That would surely lead to an increase to consumers.

Mr. Burton noted states use several tests to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee, such as whether the employer directs and controls the worker’s actions and whether the employer provides tools for the individual’s job. These cases are never black or white and usually depend on specific facts.

Uber has defended its position by saying that its drivers are not employees because they own their own vehicles. “With Uber, you are driving your own car and set your own hours” Mr. Ring said. “They can argue that all that they do is provide you with the app.”

In Illinois recently, an Appellate Court ruled last week in favor of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission’s decision to award benefits to an independent contractor. The driver lost a leg in a trucking accident. The court found that while the employee owned his tractor-trailer, the control the company had over the equipment was “indicative of an employment relationship.”

These two cases seem to err on the side of the employee or the independent contractor. All of these work-related type of cases are determined on an individual basis. The best advice is that if you are hurt on the job in Alabama, whether an employee or independent contractor, file a first report of injury to protect yourself. It is much harder to claim you are hurt later. Tell a co-worker, go to the doctor and seek medical attention. If later it is determined that you are not an employee, there is no harm done. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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