Safety and OSHA News

Should taxi drivers be eligible for workers’ comp?

As more and more companies use independent contractors to do work formerly handled by employees, these questions come up more often: Employee or contractor? Eligible for workers’ comp or not?

Example: Taxi cab drivers. Right now in Pennsylvania, they’re considered independent contractors. A bill in the state legislature would change that.

Alex Friedman, secretary of the Philadelphia Taxi Association, a group that owns the medallions for about half of the cabs in the city, says they’re contractors.

“We do not pay them salary. We do not control their working hours. We do not tell them to go in certain routes. They are not our employees. We are not their employers,” Friedman told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Therefore we do not pay any workers’ compensation.”

Ronald Blount, who heads the Taxi Workers Association of Philadelphia, sees it differently. “We believe we’re misclassified,” he said. Blount said cab drivers can’t turn off the dispatch radio during their shifts to take a nap. There are monitors that track their every move. He calls that the type of control an employer exercises over employees.

In some places, such as San Francisco, taxi drivers are considered employees and are eligible for workers’ comp.

Here’s another reason why it matters to the cabbies: Driving a taxi is one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. About 19 out of every 100,000 cab drivers died on the job in 2008.

Other cab drivers face life-altering injuries. Cabbie Ralph Rescigno was stabbed in the back one night by a robber. Both his lungs were punctured. In the hospital he suffered a stroke.

Rescigno is now wheelchair-bound and can’t speak. He doesn’t receive workers’ comp benefits.

Which factors should determine whether a worker is considered an employee and be eligible for workers’ comp? Are taxi drivers employees or contractors? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.

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  1. The taxi drivers should be eligible for workmens comp. They are controlled just like an employee. I also find it unconcionable that so many companies are using “contract” labour in an effort to avoid providing workmens comp as well as other benefits. You are making money off of these people and there is a cost associated with you doing so. When did greed become good business practice?

  2. Employees, really.

  3. If the employer exercises any control over an employee such as not letting them sleep or monitoring their every movement, they cannot be self employed.

  4. Something to keep in mind is that some individuals prefer the contractor position vs employee because they receive a higher payout as a contractor. I have no problem with that, however, if you want to be in business for yourself then you should also assume the risks that go along with that. Contractors can purchase Workers’ Comp insurance for themselves to ensure they are covered, they apparently choose not to do so.

  5. To Jayne: This is America and greed is part of capitolism. You have to take the good with the bad. I agree that they should receive workers compensation. These loopholes need to be closed!!! However in the defense of the Taxi Workeres Association the taxi drivers new they had no benifits when they took the job. Also they were not forced to work with no benifits they chose to do so. In America it’s all about choices that is what freedom is!!

  6. See, they’re a contractor until something happens. They’ll sign up to be a contractor as they’ll get more money. BUT, when the employer terminates the contract, they’ll try to claim for unemployment and say they were an employee, just to get money. The same for worker’s comp incidents. The workers claim they are something until claiming to be something else will get them more money. Oftentimes there is a lot of gray area between an employee and contractor, as is in this case. Freedom to work when you want and if you want is not the single determining factor but one of 20 or so from the IRS. A lot of time, such as when patients need to be watched by a home health care worker, shift work is necessary and the freedom of when you work and how much you work isn’t truly there as the patient needs care during that time, but there are enough other clear parts, such as no supervision, that make it possible to be a true contractor.

  7. There are other considerations: if the cab driver owns his own cab and cab license then he is more a contractor but if the cab company owns the cab and is responsible for cab licenses and/or vehicle insurance coverage then the driver may arguably be an employee. Most cab drivers I know own there own cabs and licenses, pay for their own vehicle insurance and pay a service fee to a central dispatch service. Much depends on which state and city has jurisdiction. For instance, Texas does not require all employers to provide workers comp for their employees whereas other states require all employers to buy workers comp even if they have only one employee. Cab drivers need to be aware of the state and local laws governing their particular type of job. They may be in a special class much like farm workers when it comes to workers comp coverage.

  8. Yeah it’s definitely much easier to travel in a limousine or taxi rather than using public transportation…especially if you are a tourist visiting.

  9. Yes there should be away were the people who drives a cab pay insurance and workers comp automatically. Because the nature of the job is really dangerous to the driver; and very profitable to the cab companies they will not want to pay workers comp for drivers, but they will hire law firms to fight back because they get to keep all the money for them self and taxi drivers are continue to struggle to pay the cab company for example in Florida taxi drivers pay from 415.00 to 750.00 per week an the driver barely able to buy food and pay rent.
    how do i know because I’m a cab driver. You loudly call it modern day slavery . strategy ……. who mostly drive a cab? the answer is foreigners who barely understand the system with no formal education and dealing with a cab company who has four hundred lawyers working for them you do math.

  10. I’m a San Francisco taxi driver and state case law requires companies to pay workers comp on ‘Gate and Gas’ taxi drivers, which is what I am. In short, this means that I’m legally prohibited from investing money into owning my own vehicle, and fully operating my own business. I MUST lease from a cab company in order to drive a cab. I agree with the workers’ comp law. The reason is because although companies generally don’t supervise the manner in which cab drivers drive cabs, drivers who are required by law to lease from companies become dependent upon companies for their livelihoods. In other words, companies can dictate which drivers drive which cabs. In SF, they dictate what days or evenings drivers may drive and what shifts. If a driver wants time off, they must ask a company manager… in other words, they must ask the “boss”. If there’s a shift they want to work they have to ask for it through management. The company may grant or deny the drivers shift. This is just like a worker asking the boss for more hours or for time off in an employer/employee relationship. In 1996, after a taxi driver had been seriously injured, a California Superior Court judge ruled that SF ‘gate and gas’ taxi drivers are employees for purposes of Workers Comp and Unemployment protection based on observation of these facts.

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