An injured worker says he should get workers’ comp because he was an employee, not an independent contractor. But he signed documents saying he was a contractor. Now what?
Walter Theodore worked as a a doorman/bouncer at the Krazy Korner bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter. He checked IDs and occasionally had to remove customers from the bar.
Theodore says he was injured when he picked up a patron and removed him from a stage. The patron had jumped on stage while a band was playing. The bouncer applied for workers’ comp. The case went to a workers’ comp judge.
Krazy Korner filed to get the case thrown out because Theodore was an independent contractor and therefore wasn’t entitled to workers’ comp benefits under the law.
The bar’s manager said Theodore wasn’t under his supervision and the bouncer determined how he performed his work. Krazy Korner also produced numerous documents Theodore signed that stated his status as an independent contractor.
One of the documents provided by the bar stated that Theodore would receive a Form 1099 for tax purposes — the form which summarizes payments to independent contractors.
Despite that documentation, Theodore argued that he was really an employee. He said:
- He was paid an hourly wage
- He reported to work at Krazy Korner on a schedule mandated by the bar
- He sometimes was involved in physically restraining and ejecting unruly patrons
- Krazy Korner instructed him in how to perform his job duties, and
- He was head of security for the bar.
The workers’ comp judge granted the bar’s motion to get the case thrown out. Theodore took his case to a state appeals court.
Louisiana’s Workers’ Compensation Act says an independent contractor is “any person who renders service, other than manual labor, for a specified recompense … under the control of his principal as to the results of his work only, and not as to the means by which such result is accomplished.” The law also notes if a worker spends a “substantial” part of his time involved in manual labor, the contractor is covered by workers’ comp.
The appeals court reversed the ruling by the workers’ comp judge. The court said there was enough conflicting evidence about whether Theodore was an employee or an independent contractor to have the case go to trial.
Now Krazy Korner has a choice to try to reach a settlement with Theodore or take its chances in a trial court.
Given the nature of the job, do you think Krazy Korner correctly categorized Theodore as an independent contractor? Should he get workers’ comp for his injury? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
(Theodore v. Krazy Korner, No. 2012-CA-0173, Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit, 5/23/12)