Do Workers' Comp Laws Protect Independent Contractors in North Carolina?

The short answer is no, an independent contractor is not covered by Workers’ Compensation laws in North Carolina.  However, the answer really depends on the situation.  If the independent contractor is:

performing the functions of an employee,

taking guidance and direction from the employer,

has his or her hours set by the employer,

working for no other employer, and

basically acting as an employee

then the North Carolina Industrial Commission may view this person as an employee rather than an independent contractor.  As a result, this person may be covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act in North Carolina.

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An independent contractor who has multiple “employers” or clients, sets his/her own hours for work, and performs the job independent of the client employer will most likely not be covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act in North Carolina.

Examples are often the most helpful.

Probably “employee” – A person is hired as an independent contractor to enter data.  This person is given specific hours to work, takes direction from a supervisor within the company, and attends training classes for the company.  This person will most likely be considered an employee by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

Independent Contractor – A person is hired to enter data.  The person decides the hours of the day they work.  The person provides the services from their home and/or the employer’s office.   The person takes limited or no direction from the employer as long as the job gets completed.  This person will most likely be considered an independent contractor by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

Independent contractors are not specifically defined by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, however, employees are defined by North Carolina General Statute, Section 97-2 of the Workers’ Compensation Act.   The term “employee” means every person engaged in an employment under any appointment or contract of hire or apprenticeship, express or implied, oral or written, including aliens, and also minors, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed, but excluding persons whose employment is both casual and not in the course of the trade, business, profession, or occupation of his employer.”

Obviously each case must be reviewed carefully to determine if the employer-employee relationship exists for purposes of determining whether there is a Workers’ Compensation claim.

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