The Effect of Statutory Employee Status on a Claim for Injury on the Job

The health and safety of workers is a pressing concern for both employees and employers alike. When an injury occurs at a job site, many questions arise as to the care of the injured and the responsibility of the employer in regard to that care. As an employee, the question of who pays for the care that may become necessary in the immediate, as well as into the future, is of prominent concern. Also, an injured employee may ask what level of responsibility their employer is held to for the circumstances of the accident and how they can receive compensation for health and living expenses resulting from any injury. What some employees may overlook is that their employment status can often dictate the means and method by which they will be able to recover should a lawsuit become necessary.

The importance of a contract between the employer and the employee who wish to have their relationship classified as statutory cannot be overstated. The recent Louisiana Court of Appeals case out of the Parish of Beauregard, Tilley v. Boise Cascade Corp., illustrates how one’s employment status under the law can affect the outcome of a claim for compensation after injury. Tilley, an employee of the BE & K Construction Company, was contracted to work for a Boise Cascade Corp. owned paper mill. While performing work at a machine in the mill, Tilley was sprayed by a scalding liquid and suffered injury. Tilley’s contract to work had expired six days prior to the accident.

Tilley filed suit. Soon after, Boise Cascade Corp. claimed immunity under Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act Title 23 § 1061, arguing that Tilley was a statutory employee who was only entitled to workers compensation benefits and was not entitled to file suit. Hinging their decision on the contract, the Court of Appeals held that the Boise Cascade failed to prove with any certainty that Tilley’s contract had been extended. Therefore, Tilley was not a statutory employee at the time of the accident and she was free to move forward with her suit.

The determination that an employee is a statutory employee can dictate an injured worker’s recovery options. A regular employee is a worker directly hired by a business to perform its trade or operation. Such an employee is covered under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act. The Act mandates that when an employee is injured the employer must pay a certain amount to them under law. In obtaining the absolute benefit of workers’ compensation, the employee forfeits the right to sue for additional damages with the exception of an injury or death caused intentionally by an employer. This immunity covers suits for employer negligence, and the legal result is that an employee receiving workers compensation benefits cannot sue the employer for additional damages not recoverable under workers’ compensation.

A statutory employee is a worker who is contracted to perform a job for a principal employer through a sub-contractor or intermediary. To be classified as a statutory employee under Louisiana law Title 23 §1061, the worker must be performing work “which is a part of [the] trade, business, or occupation” of the principal employer under a contract which indicates their status as a statutory employee. If an employee is classified as a statutory employee the employer enjoys the same immunity from suit as it does with regular employees in the event of death or injury. Thus, if an employee’s status is that of a statutory employee, the employer is exclusively liable for death or injury under workers compensation and enjoys tort immunity. Immunity shields the statutory employer from further suit, preventing the statutory employee from further recovery. Thus, an employee’s status governs the possible methods of legal redress.

Employee status can have great effect on the remedies which can be sought by employees as well as on the duty of care an employer must exercise. If you find yourself faced with an on the job injury you need the services of an effective legal team to help you determine important issues such as the effect your employment status could have on your claim.

Contact the Berniard Law Firm toll-free at 1-866-574-8005 or on the web at laclaim.com and an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation and personal injury will be able to assist you.