Massachusetts Court Discusses Joint Employment in Workers’ Compensation

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act, the right to recover workers’ compensation benefits arises out of the employee-employer relationship. While generally, a person can only recover workers’ compensation benefits from one employer for work-related injury, in some instances, more than one employer will be liable. In other words, in cases involving joint employers, an injured claimant may be an employee of both employers. In a recent Massachusetts case, the court discussed joint employment, ultimately determining that both employers in question were liable. If you sustained losses due to a work-related incident, it is advisable to speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about what benefits you may be owed.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is alleged that the claimant, operating under his business name, had been hired by two individuals engaged in property rehabilitation. Later, he began work for a property management company introduced to him by these individuals. The claimant worked on various projects for both parties, receiving payment as an individual and working under their direction.

Reportedly, he sustained a serious injury while working on a project jointly undertaken by the property management company and one of the individuals and filed a workers’ compensation claim seeking benefits from either the individuals or the property management company. The administrative judge determined that the claimant was an employee of both entities and that they constituted joint employers. The reviewing board summarily affirmed these findings. The property management company then appealed.

Determining Whether an Employment Relationship Exists

On appeal, the court addressed two key issues: whether the claimant was an employee or an independent contractor and whether he was jointly employed by both entities. Regarding the claimant’s employment status, the court upheld the administrative judge’s determination, emphasizing the wide-ranging evaluation of factors conducted by the judge.

While acknowledging the claimant’s specialized skills and lack of direct supervision, the judge concluded that the claimant’s relationship with the entities exhibited significant indicia of employment, such as continuous work, absence of contracts, and individual payment. The court found no error in the judge’s analysis and affirmed the determination of employee status.

Regarding joint employment, the court rejected the argument that joint employers must have integrated ownership, management, and finances. Instead, it recognized that separate entities could be joint employers under workers’ compensation law. The court found that the property management company and the individual exercised control over the claimant’s work and benefited from it jointly, thus meeting the criteria for joint employment.

It noted that joint employment can arise from symbiotic business arrangements, and in this case, both entities benefited from the claimant’s labor. Therefore, the court affirmed the finding of joint employment and upheld the decision of the board, affirming the compensation order.

Confer with a Skilled Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Employers must pay injured employees workers’ compensation benefits in certain scenarios, and in some cases, more than one employer may be liable. If you were injured on the job, it is sensible to confer with an attorney. Attorney James K. Meehan is a skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer. You can reach Attorney Meehan at 508-822-6600 or via our convenient online contact form to schedule a confidential conference.