Massachusetts Court Discusses Employment Status in the Context of Workers’ Compensation

In Massachusetts, if an employee dies due to a fatal work accident, their family members can often recover survivor benefits pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). Only the survivors of deceased employees are owed such benefits, however. In other words, family members of independent contractors, volunteers, and other non-employees are not eligible for such benefits. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed what factors they analyze in determining whether a person is an employee as defined by the Act. If you lost a loved one in a workplace accident, you may be owed benefits, and you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that a worker died a work-related death. His wife was subsequently awarded workers’ compensation survivor benefits in a claim against his employer and the employer’s insurance company. The insurer appealed the decision of the Department of Industrial Accidents reviewing board, which affirmed the decision of the administrative judge. The insurer argued, in part, that the administrative judge erred in determining that the worker was an employee as defined by the Act.

Determining if a Person is an Employee as Defined by the Act

Under Massachusetts law, the question of a person’s employment status within the meaning of the Act is essentially a question of fact for the board. As such, it should not be set aside if it is supported by the evidence. Further, the determinations of the weight to grant the evidence, credibility assessments, and findings of fact are the sole function of administrative judges. Thus, the courts grant weight to their specialized knowledge, experience, and technical competence.

Administrative judges employ a twelve-part test to determine if a person is an employee for purposes of workers’ compensation claims. While the administrative judges must apply each factor, they do not have to explicitly lay out each element in their decision in order for it to be valid. In the subject case, the appellate court found that, contrary to the argument set forth by the insurer, the administrative judge’s decision established that he found the worker to be an employee after considering each of the twelve factors. Specifically, the judge found that the worker was a full time employee that was paid at an hourly rate and worked year round, and was skilled in the operation of heavy machinery. Based on the foregoing, the court denied the insurer’s appeal with respect to the issue of the worker’s employment status.

Speak to a Dedicated Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

When a person dies in a work accident, their surviving family members often suffer not only emotional and mental trauma but also significant financial losses. If you lost a loved one in a work accident, you may be owed benefits, and you should speak to an attorney. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a dedicated workers’ compensation lawyer who can gather the evidence needed to help you seek the full amount of benefits you deserve. You can reach him by calling 508-822-6600 or using the online form to set up a meeting.