Massachusetts Supreme Court Explains Who is Eligible for Workers’ Compensation

Newspapers at door

If you are injured at work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation, and potentially other damages. However, for workers’ compensation purposes, you must be classified as an employee instead of an independent contractor. There are different tests that courts use to determine whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee. The Massachusetts Supreme Court clarified here that the appropriate test is the one in workers’ compensation law. If you are injured on the job, you should contact a skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to help you get the benefits that you are entitled to. They can also help you to get any other damages you may be entitled to.

Facts of the Case

A woman worked delivering papers, but she could (and did) subcontract out some of the work. There was a specific time each day that the papers needed to be delivered by, but as long as she delivered them by that time she could deliver them when she wanted. She could choose her route and she used her own car. She worked not for the publishers of the paper, but a third party who employed people to do the delivering of the newspapers. She was delivering newspapers when she fell of a ramp and hurt her right knee and right hand. A few months later she fell again on the ice and hurt her right leg. She eventually needed two surgeries: one for her right hand and one for her right knee. She filed for workers’ compensation due to these injuries. She was denied because the administrative judge determined that she was an independent contractor and therefore not eligible for workers’ compensation.

 Employee v. Independent Contractor

 The important question in this appeal is whether the characterization of independent contractor was correct, or whether plaintiff should have been classified as an employee. The bulk of the opinion discusses which test for employee vs. independent contractor applies. Using basic tools of statutory construction, the court found that the governing test for whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor under workers’ compensation law is G.L.c. 152, § 1.

This proper test under the statute is a twelve-part test referred to as the MacTavish-Whitman factors. These factors look at how much control the person has over the job. The factors look at the agreement for how much control the worker has over the work, whether the occupation is usually done by employees or independent contractors, and whether the potential employee is working in a distinct occupation. It also looks at the skills required for the job, whether the tools are provided by the employer or employee, the method of payment, and the length of time of employment. The MacTavish-Whitman factors also include whether the person is paid per hour or per job, whether the work is part of the regular business of the employer, what kind of relationship the parties believe they are forming, treatment for taxation purposes, and the right to terminate the relationship without liability.

The court upheld the lower court’s decision that the plaintiff was an independent contractor and thus was not eligible for workers’ compensation.

Contact an Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

If you have been injured in at work you may be eligible for workers’ compensation! The skilled workers’ compensation attorneys at Neumann Law Group serve Boston, Canton, Worcester, and other areas in Massachusetts. Call them today at (617) 918-7790 or use the contact form on this website to schedule your free consultation!

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