Workers in Illinois who are categorized as independent contractors face a host of challenges relative to their colleagues who are categorized as integrated, full-time employees. Not only do independent contractors commonly work for less pay, on a more temporary basis, they may also have less access to benefits such as health insurance, retirement funds and workers’ compensation.

Independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation in Illinois. However, the question of whether a given worker who is called an independent contractor by his employer is eligible for workers’ compensation is not as clear as might otherwise be assumed. In other words, just because a worker was told that he is employed as an independent contractor and uses a Form 1099 to file his taxes does not necessarily ensure that a judge will conclude that he is an independent contractor.

Circumstances evaluated

Rather than take for granted the word of an employer who has an obvious financial interest in avoiding payment for a workers’ compensation claim, the courts will evaluate the circumstances of the worker’s job. Specifically, what will be evaluated is the actual independence of the worker in question; in other terms, the control the employer has over the worker is a key consideration.

There are five factors, among others, that will be looked at in order to determine the degree of independence or, conversely, control, under which the eligibility of the worker seeking benefits for an injury will be determined:

  • Whether the employer or the worker is in control of the services provided
  • How the worker was hired and how he is compensated
  • Any equipment that may be provided to the worker
  • Any training that may have been provided to the worker
  • Specific language in agreements between the worker and the employer

Control is critical

If the employer is in control of who provides the services and how they are provided, the worker is more likely to be considered an employee. On the other hand, if any worker who can abide the contract and who is capable of doing so in his own way can be hired, the worker is more likely to be considered an independent contractor.

Additionally, if the worker is compensated by the job, does not receive equipment to perform the job and works for multiple employers, he is more likely to be considered an independent contractor. On the other hand, if the worker is compensated by salary, uses equipment from the employer and only works for one employer, he is more likely to be considered an employee.

Injured workers who need a strong case to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits as employees may wish to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney.