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Oklahoma Supreme Court Says Cash Worker Was Employee for Workers Compensation Purposes

Oklahoma workers compensation attorneyAndres Carbajal was granted worker’s compensation benefits on July 1, 2014 after the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed lower court decisions and determined that he was an employee of a construction company, Precision Builders, Inc.

Carbajal sustained injuries when he fell from a scaffolding at a construction site. Precision had argued before the Worker’s Compensation trial tribunal that Carbajal, who had worked for the company intermittently between 2006 and 2010, was an independent contractor and not an employee. The tribunal agreed with Precision and determined that Carbajal was not eligible to receive Worker’s Compensation benefits. The Court of Civil Appeals sustained the tribunal’s decision and the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari review.

The Supreme Court reached its decision in light of the Oklahoma Worker’s Compensation statute. The law defines “employee” as “any person engaged in the employment of any person, firm, limited liability company or corporation covered by the terms of the Workers’ Compensation Act.” “Employment,” under the Act, is defined as “work or labor in a trade, business, occupation or activity carried on by an employer…” Independent Contractors are a distinct category and are not covered individuals under the Worker’s Compensation law in Oklahoma.

Precision’s primary argument was that Carbajal was an independent contractor because he possessed his own tool belt when he was hired off of the street for a short-term job at a construction site in 2006 before being officially hired by Precision later. The court rejected this argument. Applying the factors enumerated in Page v. Hardy, 1958 OK 283, 334 P.2d 782, the court found that Carbajal was an employee and, therefore, could receive Worker’s Compensation benefits for his injuries. Those factors include:

  • The nature of the contract between the parties,
  • The degree of control which the employer may exercise on details of the work,
  • Whether or not one is engaged in a distinct occupation or business for others,
  • Whether the work is done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision,
  • The skill required in the particular occupation,
  • Whether the employer or the workman supplies the tools and place of work,
  • The length of time the person is employed,
  • The method of payment whether by time or by the job,
  • Whether the work is part of the regular business of the employer,
  • Whether the parties believe they are creating the relationship of master and servant, and
  • The right of either to terminate the relationship without liability.

Read the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision in Carbajal v. Precision Builders, Inc. 2014 OK 62 here.

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