Is a worker who drives a company vehicle and is paid by the mile but who gets no other benefits an employee or an independent contractor for the sake of workers’ compensation?
A Nebraska appeals court found this a question of control, with the facts pointing toward the worker being an independent contractor.
Driver found, booked loads online
Oscar Cajiao was injured in a crash that occurred on November 2, 2017, while he was driving a tractor-trailer leased by Arga Transport.
Cajiao filed a workers’ compensation claim as an employee of Arga, but the company claimed Cajiao was an independent contractor and wasn’t entitled to benefits.
In workers’ compensation court, Cajiao explained he once owned his own semi-tractor which he used for over-the-road, commercial purposes.
To acquire work, he’d search online broker companies for convenient loads to haul.
Companies would provide the load’s details, pickup and delivery locations, number of miles between locations and the weight of the load. When a delivery was complete, Cajiao would send a bill to the company for payment.
Crash involved company truck
In 2010, Cajiao sold his truck, but continued working in the same manner, only now he used the company’s truck to haul the load.
While he’d worked for many companies in the 15 years before the crash, he’d been working only for Arga within the six months prior to the incident.
Arga paid him by the mile, and he received no other benefits other than a yearend bonus of no set amount.
Based on the evidence, the court determined Cajiao was an independent contractor and dismissed his claim.
Company only controlled results
On appeal, Cajiao argued the court erred in finding him an independent contractor rather than an Arga employee.
The Nebraska Court of Appeals disagreed, reasoning that the question came down to a matter of control.
Cajiao claimed his lease agreement with Arga said that the company has exclusive possession, control and use of the equipment and shall assume
responsibility for the operation of the equipment, meaning he was Arga’s employee.
In response, the appeals court said that while Arga maintained control over the result of the work, there was no evidence the company controlled the operation of the truck or the manner of delivery.
Because Cajiao planned his own routes, could accept or reject a load and take days off whenever he wanted, he was an independent contractor, according to the appeals court decision.