Free Consultation
No Fee Unless You Recover $
Call Now Text Us
Warnken, LLC Attorneys at Law, Attorneys & Lawyers, Pikesville, MD

Rebecca Smith Convinces Jury

Last week, Warnken, LLC attorney Rebecca Smith convinced a Maryland jury that her client was an employee, not an independent contractor. Her client is now entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The implications of such a decision are significant for gig workers everywhere. Though the jury win is not binding caselaw, it does show that gig economy workers may be deemed employees under Maryland law, providing them with the protections that come from being classified as an employee … not the least of which is compensation when injured on the job as a gig worker.

Employee or Independent Contractor

Rebecca’s client worked for Takl, a business then operating in Maryland, who classified their employees as independent contractors. Customers went to Takl to hire providers to do chores around their homes. Rebecca’s client was one of these workers. Her client was significantly injured on the job.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission of Maryland had previously ruled against the Claimant, finding that the Claimant was an independent contractor. A Howard County jury determined that the Commission was incorrect and that the Claimant was an employee. Takl required claimant to agree to terms and use that told providers that they were independent contractors. The jury was not persuaded by this evidence. The jury found that Takl exerted control over the Claimant in how his work was performed by controlling the price for jobs, GPS tracking, how many jobs must be completed in a week to maintain professional status, and over the power to suspend employment for canceling jobs or not performing to Takl’s standards.

Are Uber and Lyft Drivers Employees or Independent Contractors?

Every time an Uber or Lyft driver get hurt in a crash, the question about whether they are an employee or independent contractor comes up. If they are an employee, they entitled to workers’ comp benefits in addition to what other recovery may be attainable from the crash. The jury decision in Rebecca’s case speak to the idea that they may be employees.

In every case dealing with the relationship of employees and contractors, the jury instructions are an important consideration. Specifically , the Maryland Civil Pattern Jury Instructions (MPJI) dealing with Employment Relationship and Independent Contractor. The instructions mandate that the following factors be considered…

  • The selection and hiring of the employee/IC;
  • The payment of wages;
  • The power to fire employee/IC;
  • The power of control over employee/IC conduct;
  • Whether the work in part of the regular business of employer;
  • Whether the parties believed that they were creating an employer-employee relationship;
  • Whether the work is usually done, in the environment, under the direction of an employer, or by a specialist without supervision;
  • The skill required in the occupation.

The most important factor is the power of control. The jury instructions also discuss that an independent contractor is a person who contracts to perform certain work for another according to the worker’s own means and methods, free from the control of another in all details connected with the performance of the work except as to its product or result.