Employee Misclassification Can Leave You Without Workers’ Compensation Benefits

April 5, 2021
By Glauber Berenson Vego

California law requires all employers with one or more employees to purchase workers’ compensation coverage. With few exceptions, that gives most workers coverage if they’re in an on-the-job accident — unless they’re not really classified as an “employee” at all.

It’s illegal for an employer to misclassify a worker, yet there are many reasons why they do so. Employers can get out of offering costly benefits such as health insurance, a retirement plan, unemployment and workers’ compensation (WC) coverage by classifying their employees as independent contractors instead of as full or part-time workers.

How misclassifying workers as independent contractors negative affects their rights

California law prohibits employers from asking their employees to cover workers’ compensation premium costs. They instead see this insurance as just one of many operating costs that an employer must absorb.

Employers often misclassify their employees as independent contractors (ICs) to avoid extending them any of the above-referenced protections or other benefits, like retirement, sick leave or overtime. They do so even though federal law prohibits employers from classifying workers as ICs if they perform the same work that employees would.

Anyone who suffers injuries while working for a California in an IC capacity instead of an employee has no right to WC benefits. The downside to this is that workers would have to foot the bill for their potentially costly job-related medical bills instead of their employer.

The worst part is that you may not realize that you’ve been misclassified. Maybe you know you’re paid as an independent contractor but don’t realize that you should be treated like a regular employee. Or, you may think you’re a regular employee and not find out your status until you try to file a workers’ comp claim.

What can you do if you’ve been misclassified and it’s affecting your rights?

Know that you do have rights if your employer has purposely misclassified you to get out of offering workers’ compensation benefits. An attorney can advise you of the next steps to take if you discover your employer’s impropriety and help you recover what you’re due.