Court of Appeals Finds A Logger is an Independent Contractor

Independent Contractor status always depends on the facts of the case.  The important question for the Commission or a court is whether the worker has control over the means and manner of the work.

In Green v. Bur. Of Work. Comp., 2018-Ohio-2618, the 4th District Court of Appeals examined whether there was sufficient evidence to find that a logger was an independent contractor, as opposed to an employee under the workers’ compensation law.  The Commission determined the claimant was an independent contractor after hearings before its district and staff hearing officers.  The claimant appealed to the trial court pursuant to R.C. 4123.512, which conducted a bench trial.   The court found several facts compelling a ruling the claimant was an independent contractor.  (1) The alleged employer told the claimant he was an independent contractor responsible for his own taxes, insurance, and workers’ compensation coverage, a fact which was known and corroborated by the property owner and other workers.  (2) A third-party sawmill paid the claimant at the alleged employer’s direction.  (3) The alleged employer did not instruct or supervise the claimant in his work. (4) The claimant had the discretion to set his own hours.

The claimant appealed to the court of appeals, which reviewed the appeal under a “manifest weight of the evidence” standard.  Because there was sufficient record evidence to support the finding that the claimant controlled the manner and means of his work, the court of appeals upheld the trial court’s judgment.

Because decisions on independent contractor status are very fact-intensive, differing results may arise from the same set of factual circumstances.  More importantly, the same set of facts may yield different results in different agencies.  For example, the Unemployment Review Commission may determine a worker is an employee where the Industrial Commission finds the worker to be an independent contractor.  Employers must be mindful to tailor their arguments according to the forum in which the independent contractor issue is being adjudicated.


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