Posted on October 31, 2015 in Personal Injury
Advances in technology have significantly changed the workplace in the past five years or so. Further advances are likely to make the “office” landscape unrecognizable from even what we recognize today.
In the “good old days” (referring as far back as the 1990s) it was relatively easy to identify an employer/employee relationship. Workers would commute from their home to their place of employment on a daily basis. They would perform their work at their assigned workstation, and then return home. This is no longer the typical workplace scenario.
In our own Law Firm, our office manager is located in Maryland, more than 100 miles from any physical office we have. Attorneys and staff members often work remotely, whether from home while a child is sick, from a courtroom if stuck waiting for other hearings, or even from a parking lot while between depositions and appointments. Laptop computers, tablets and smart phones provide an “office” wherever you happen to be. This provides a variety of scenarios playing out in Worker’s Compensation claims (as well as civil litigation court rooms, concerning liability for car accidents, slip and falls etc.) throughout the state, and the world at large.
How does an employer (or their insurance carrier) know when an individual is actually working, or pursuing personal activities. Often, the two can be occurring simultaneously. A single mom taking care of her sick child at home may have permission from the employer to prepare dictation, review emails and respond to phone calls from their home. Should she slip and fall while walking from her laptop computer to the kitchen, was she working, or had she abandoned her work duties for a personal pursuit?
In addition to the changing appearance of the office itself, there are also “Shared Employment” issues. Changes in federal law concerning the requirement to provide healthcare insurance (Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare), family medical leave time etc. have resulted in non-traditional employment relationships. In an effort to reduce the cost of “benefits”, many companies outsource their work force, by retaining an independent agency to provide temporary or part-time assistance. Which entity is actually responsible for controlling the work duties, paying the salary and benefits etc. may have a substantial impact in determining who the actual employer is.
Finally, the word UBER has become recognized worldwide in the past 1-2 years. While they currently outsource transportation services to anyone with a smartphone and a vehicle, there are news stories and rumors that they intend to expand to other service industries, including delivery of food, merchandise and other goods. The “drivers” simply turn on their smartphone app whenever they wish to work. A customer using their own smartphone app contacts Uber, who identifies a nearby representative. The driver operates their own vehicle, provides their own insurance, determines when they want to work, and for how long. Is Uber their employer, or is Uber merely a broker or dispatcher of the driver, who is a sole proprietor and/or independent contractor? If the Uber driver gets injured in an accident, can they collect workers compensation from Uber? If the driver causes injuries to their passenger or another driver, may there be a Personal Injury claim against Uber – or solely against the driver?
Unfortunately, many of these questions cannot be answered in a general sense. The facts of each specific case will be evaluated by the court, in conjunction with the varying laws of each different state where these circumstance may occur – to determine whether an employment relationship existed. This will also be significant in the setting of personal injury claims, in determining whether the entity retaining the services was an employer or otherwise responsible for the actions/ omissions of their worker/agent/contractor.
If you have been injured in any type of accident, it is essential to hire an attorney who knows the law, and stays constantly informed about the always evolving court decisions and legal issues that develop day after day. At rel=”nofollow” >Schmidt, Kirifides, Fridkin & Rassias we have knowledgeable workers compensation and personal injury lawyers working side-by-side to ensure your rights are protected, and to maximize the compensation available for the serious injuries you or a loved one has suffered. For a free consultation, call our rel=”nofollow” >Media Workers’ Compensation lawyers at rel=”nofollow” >610-892-9300 or rel=”nofollow” >contact us online. With offices located in Media and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania andWilmington, Delaware we have a location convenient to serve you.