In 2011, the federal government launched a nationwide initiative with the goal of gaining states’ participation in a program that seeks to address the problem of worker misclassification. Misclassification occurs when employers classify employees as something else, such as an independent contractor. This can be a problem because independent contractors are not entitled to the same benefits as employees. Benefits that independent contractors are not entitled to receive include workers’ compensation benefits.
Massachusetts signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” in November 2014, a voluntary non-binding agreement that it will work with the U.S. Department of Labor to reduce employee misclassification.
The agreement puts an emphasis on the importance of exchanging information between the federal government and the government of the Commonwealth. The agreement states in part that the two agencies will engage in joint efforts to:
- Combat the underground economy and employee misclassification, with an emphasis on investigating the potential exploitation of vulnerable populations, such as immigrants;
- Help to foster compliance with the law by educating business owners and employees about applicable requirements;
- Protect the health, safety, and benefits rights of workers; and
- Restore competitive equality for law-abiding businesses.
The misclassification of employees as independent contractors is common, as you’ll see reflected in recent blog posts on this blog, and the ramifications of mischaracterization go well beyond the denial of workers’ compensation benefits. However, it is important to note that if an individual is in fact an employee, based on the circumstances surrounding how and where the work is completed, and so forth, an individual characterized as an independent contractor, such as through the work contract, may be entitled to benefits.
Addressing the issue of employee misclassification is an important one because individuals who believe that they are independent contractors, when they are in fact employees, may be wrongfully denied access to workers’ compensation and other benefits. While the misclassification may be eventually uncovered, sometimes it is not. This means that individuals who are injured in the course of their employment may have to wait additional months in order to receive workers’ compensation, or in some cases not recover at all, when they legally should be entitled to recover. Obviously, being injured due to your job, and then not receiving any sort of financial support during the time you can no longer work, whether temporarily or permanently, can be devastating.
Employers in Massachusetts must provide their employees with workers’ compensation coverage. MA Gen L ch 152 § 25A provides an overview of the specific requirements that employers must meet regarding workers’ compensation coverage. Workers’ compensation is a program that is designed to reimburse employees for job-related illnesses or injuries. In exchange for workers’ compensation payments, the employee forfeits his or her right to sue the employer through a conventional personal injury lawsuit.
At the law firm of Pulgini & Norton, we offer comprehensive guidance and representation in these matters. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are well-versed in this area of law and have helped many injured employees in the Boston area obtain the benefits that they need. Contact us today in order to discuss your case and set up a free initial consultation. We can be reached by phone at 781-843-2200 or through this website.
More Blog Posts:
The Importance of Understanding the Exclusivity of Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published January 22, 2015
Massachusetts Appeals Court Invalidates Workers’ Compensation Waiver, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published January 15, 2015