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Understanding worker classification and worker's comp

If you're an independent contractor and are hurt on the job, what do you do? If you're not carrying your own worker's compensation insurance, you may want to assess whether you've been correctly classified as an independent contractor.

Just because an employer calls you an independent contractor doesn't necessarily make you one. Worker classification is a growing concern at both the federal and state level. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development provides a helpful worker classification test to work through if you're not sure how you should be classified.

The Wisconsin Worker's Compensation Act includes nine requirements for a worker to be considered an independent contractor and not an employee:

  1. You must maintain your own separate business, including your own office and equipment.
  2. You must have a federal employer ID number or have filed business or self-employment income tax returns with for work performed the previous year.
  3. You must operate under specific contracts where you have control over how you perform the services you're contracted to perform.
  4. You must be responsible for operating expenses of the work you perform under contract.
  5. You must be responsible (and liable) for satisfactory performance of the work under your contracts.
  6. You must be paid per contract, per job, by commission or by competitive bid.
  7. You must be in a position to realize profit or loss under your contracts.
  8. You must have recurring business liabilities and obligations.
  9. You must be in a position to succeed or fail as a business if your expenses exceed your income.

If your employer is treating you as an independent contractor but you don't meet the above requirements, it's possible you've been misclassified. In addition to affecting worker's compensation claims, this affects your ability to get unemployment insurance as well as your rights under a number of employee protection laws.

If you think you've been misclassified and are in fact eligible for worker's compensation, it's a good idea to speak with an attorney to determine how best to proceed.

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