Special Employees and Workers’ Compensation: What You Need to Know
You might not realize it, but you could actually be considered a special employee. And, no, it has nothing to do with exemplary accolades from your employer. According to the legal definition, special employees are assigned by their bosses to work for another business or government entity. Most often, this matters most when it comes to workers’ compensation benefits. Accordingly, establishing an employment relationship is crucial when there is an on the job injury.
If you’re still perplexed by what it means to be a special employee, you might want to consider this example. It could be that you are working on a construction site as a laborer for a particular contractor. Meanwhile, your company loans you out to the HVAC business. Ahead of time, both employers assume joint responsibility for workers’ compensation insurance. Of course, this only matters if you are hurt during the course of your employment.
In all candor, the preceding illustration is not all that original. In fact, it strongly resembles the circumstances in an unreported New Jersey Appellate Court decision. In that matter, the injured worker claimed he was actually a direct employee of an HVAC company. One of the responsibilities of the latter was to install exhaust vents.
According to the case history, Bobby Robinson was hurt when a jackhammer “kicked back” and threw him off a ladder. In addition to filing a workers’ compensation claim against the HVAC company, Robinson filed one against the site construction manager. Concurrently, Robinson filed negligence complaints against both contractors seeking damages for his injuries.
One problem. Employers are granted immunity for negligence claims unless there is a finding of gross negligence or an intention to do harm. This was not the case. As a result, the court ruled that the only remedies available were through workers’ compensation.
Employer Immunity and Workers’ Compensation
Meanwhile, you should have a clearer understanding of how employer immunity pertains to on the job injuries. Essentially, it means that you cannot file a liability claim against your employer or a co-employee except in select circumstances. The logic is that workers’ compensation provides liberal benefits. After all, you do not have to prove fault to obtain remuneration.
Just recently, the New Jersey Appellate Division considered another case that involved a special employee. In Dutcher v. Pedeiro, 2017 N.J. Super. Unpublished, John Dutcher is described as a municipal police officer. On the day of the accident, Dutcher was directing traffic at a construction site. Black Rock Enterprises, LLC was one of the contractors on the job and requested that the local police department provide a police officer to oversee traffic. Since Dutcher received directives from Black Rose Enterprises while he worked for them, he was considered a special employee of the construction contractor. Meanwhile, the municipality paid Dutcher for his services while he worked for Black Rose. Subsequently, Black Rose reimbursed the township.
While Dutcher was directing traffic, a Black Rose vehicle struck and injured him. The truck was driven by a Black Rose employee. As a result, Dutcher filed a negligence claim seeking monetary damages from Black Rose. The Black Rose employee was a named party to the lawsuit.
The court enumerated the reasons that Dutcher was considered a Black Rose employee. Specifically, the company’s managing member determined “exactly what services were required and what duties and responsibilities were expected to be performed.” The assignments came directly from Black Rose. Therefore, Black Rose provided direction and control as it pertained to Dutcher’s work.
Why is this relevant? Since Dutcher was a special employee of Black Rose, he could not pursue a negligence action against the company or what was perceived as his co-worker. According to the law, workers’ compensation benefits were the exclusive remedy available. (Of course, the case might have ended differently if there was proof that the Black Rose vehicle intentionally struck Dutcher.)
Special Employees Hurt at Work
Without question, the claims process for special employees can be quite confusing. Why do it alone? At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we have decades of experience assisting injured workers. Give us a call to see how we can help you!