From The National Law Review, Greg Guidry discusses a recent case in which an independent contractor was not eligible for protection under the Louisiana environmental whistleblower statute. Greg writes:
A recent Louisiana Court of Appeal decision held that an oil and gas landman did not have a claim under the Louisiana environmental whistleblower statute, which protects employees from retaliation for reporting environmental law violations, since he was properly classified as an independent contractor by the defendant. Finding that Dan S. Collins, a certified professional landman (CPL), and his company, Dan S. Collins, CPL and Associates, Inc., were independent contractors and not entitled to whistleblower status, the Court of Appeal, First Circuit reversed a jury verdict and the trial court’s damages judgment awarding $750,000. Collins v. State of Louisiana, Through Dep’t of Nat. Res., No. 2016 CA 1195 ( April 28, 2017).
The Court of Appeal’s Decision
The First Circuit Louisiana Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that the plaintiffs were “clearly independent contractors and not DNR employees.” Judge J. Michael McDonald found the following factors determinative:
[W]ork for DNR was performed by [Collins] and his corporation. Mr. Collins testified that he considered himself to be a contractor. Between 1997 and 2009, the corporation did work for other clients besides DNR . . . The corporation itself was acknowledged to be an employer in the contracts . . . All of the contracts were for specific time periods, with start and cessation dates. The plaintiffs were responsible for all taxes on payments received from DNR. The corporation was issued 1099 tax forms rather than W-2 tax forms. The contracts required the corporation to carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance . . . [T]he corporation submitted monthly invoices, accompanied by progress reports, to DNR in order to receive payment. No vacation, sick leave, or retirement benefits accrued. The contracts required the corporation to provide the necessary personnel, materials, services, and facilities to perform the work. None of the contracts were terminated early, all expired of their own accord.