Employment Status & Determining Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Workers Compensation Determined by Workers CompensationIn May 2015, the Illinois appellate court ruled that a trucker who lost his leg through amputation after sustaining injuries in an accident was not an independent contractor but instead, an employee who is entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Court records show that trucker Radomir Cvetkovski hauled metal products and machinery for his employer, Steel & Machinery Transportation Inc. The truck driver had been employed by the company, based in Hammond Indiana, since March 2005.

In June of that year, Cvetkovski was dispatched by the company to haul a load from Indiana to Wisconsin. Because he picked the load up on a Friday, he drove his truck to spend the weekend at home making plans to deliver the shipment the following Monday. On that day, the trucker was involved in a motor vehicle crash resulting in the loss of his left leg through amputation below the knee. The following October, Cvetkovski filed a claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission in an effort to obtain benefits to cover his injuries, damages and losses.

Terms of the Hiring Agreement

However, the agreement he made with Steel & Machinery noted that the trucker was classified not as an employee but an independent contractor. Under the terms of his agreement, the trucker was to transport goods using his own tractor-trailer with the responsibility to cover all costs of fuel, permits and other transportation expenses.

As a part of his agreement for hire, the truck driver underwent medical exams and drug testing. He transported shipments exclusively for Steel & Machinery from the date of his hire until the accident occurred. Cvetkovski testified that the company did not require him to wear uniform, but he received weekly company paychecks. He testified he did not have the ability to select loads to transport and believed he did not have the right to refuse delivery of any cargo.

No Control over the Trucker

The director of safety at the company provided testimony at the hearing indicating that Steel & Machinery “exercised no control over the type of fuel claimant purchased or where he parked” and that the company did not provide any equipment or tools to Cvetkovski. The director of safety provided additional testimony claiming that “each driver is responsible for attaining his or her own bobtail insurance and workers’ compensation coverage.”

The arbitrator working on behalf of the state Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded benefits to Cvetkovski after determining that the records showed “some evidence indicative of an independent contractor status,” but that the truck driver was still working as an employee at the time of the accident.

Trucking Company Appeals the Decision

Steel & Machinery has appealed the decision arguing that the arbitrator’s decision is “against the manifest weight of evidence.” However, through a 4-1 decision the Illinois first district appellate court sided with the commission. In a released statement, the appellate court stated that “a conclusion opposite to that of the commission is not clearly apparent.”

As a part of the ruling, the appellate court indicated that while the trucker owned his own semi tractor-trailer used to transport shipments for the company, the control over the equipment clearly belonged to Steel & Machinery, which is “indicative of an employment relationship.” The appellate court also concluded that other evidence of an employment relationship between Cvetkovski and the company included completing a hiring application and undergoing medical exams and drug testing.