Washington Court Broadens Definition of “Workers”

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As our blog followers and Breakfast attendees know, the Helsell Fetterman Employment & Labor Law group has been addressing the dangers of misclassification of employees as independent contractors, and increasingly strict interpretations of who is an independent contractor.  This trend is further exemplified in the new case handed down by the Washington State Supreme Court, Dept. of Labor v. Lyons Enterprise, Inc.  The case deals with the relationship between a franchisor in janitorial services, and the franchisees in contractual relationships with the franchisor.  The State Supreme Court held that the franchisee janitorial service providers should be classified as “workers” under the Industrial Insurance Act, so that the franchisor was responsible for paying worker’s compensation premiums for the franchisee janitorial service providers.

The Court looked at several as key to reaching this decision:  that the franchisee service providers were offering personal labor and not hiring subordinated to perform the janitorial work involved; that the franchisees relied upon the franchisor for business; that the franchisees were required to sign noncompete agreements, and that the franchisees did not have independent workplaces.

On both a state and federal level, court are broadening the protections for employees (or in this case, “workers”).  We will again be addressing this trend and what it means to employers in our next Employment Breakfast on June 2.

About the Authors

Karen Kalzer

Ms. Kalzer practices employment and education law with an emphasis on defending complex litigation for communities of faith, non-profits, schools and private employers.

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