NEBRASKA COURT OF APPEALS PROVIDES FURTHER GUIDANCE ON EMPLOYEE / INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR DETERMINATION
The Nebraska Court of Appeals recently decided a case that provides guidance as to when a worker is considered an employee or an independent contractor.
In Cajiao v. Arga Transport, the plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred while he was driving a semi-tractor trailer leased by Arga. The plaintiff filed a petition in the Workers’ Compensation Court seeking benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Court dismissed the plaintiff’s petition, holding that he was an independent contractor, not an employee. The plaintiff appealed that decision.
In determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor, the Court of Appeals noted that “the extent of control” that a potential employer exerts over a worker is the chief factor distinguishing an employment relationship from that of an independent contractor. If a potential employer exercises a high degree of control over a worker, a court is more likely to find an employment relationship.
The Court also recognized that “it is important to distinguish control over the means and methods of the assignment from control over the end product of the work to be performed.” Control over the methods and means of the assignment favors a finding that the party is an employee, while control over only the result of the work favors a finding that the party is an independent contractor.
The plaintiff argued that Arga exerted control over him by requiring him to follow federal regulations related to trucking. The Court rejected that argument and pointed out that the plaintiff would have had to follow all relevant state and federal law whether he was an employee or independent contractor.
The plaintiff further argued that Arga exercised control over him because it scheduled the plaintiff’s pickup and dropoff locations as well as delivery times.
In response, Arga argued that because the plaintiff had the ability to accept the loads he wanted, take off days as he wanted, and select the route to travel, Arga did not control the actual operation of the truck or the manner in which the plaintiff completed deliveries.
The Court of Appeals ultimately agreed with Arga and the Workers’ Compensation Court, holding that while Arga may have had control over the result of the work, it did not exercise control over the methods or means of the plaintiff’s work. Therefore, the Court found that the plaintiff was an independent contractor and not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
The Court of Appeals’ decision illustrates the complexity of determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. It is important to focus on the particular facts of each case, primarily the extent of control that the potential employer exerts over the worker.
This post was drafted by Tyler Rademacher, a law clerk at Baylor Evnen. If you have questions about the difference between an employment relationship and an independent contractor, please call Paul Barta or Micah Hawker-Boehnke at 402-475-1075.