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.