Ditch diggers who accepted work assignments online and used their own spades and shovels to do the work cannot be classified as independent contractors by a company that contracted with Time Warner Cable to install underground lines, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week.
In a 5-2 decision, the high court affirmed a Court of Appeals judgment that Ugicom Enterprises employed the laborers it assigned to bury underground lines and owes the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation $346,817.55 for unpaid premiums. The majority said in its unsigned opinion that it isn’t drawing a bright line to determine the limits of the gig economy, it is holding only that the bureau had “some evidence” to support its determination that Ugicom was an employer.
The Supreme Court listed eight factors that can be used to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor in 1943 decision. It found “some evidence” that six of those factors support the BWC’s determination that the installers were employees.
- Ugicom’s regular business is to install underground cable, which is exactly the work that it hired the installers to do.
- Installers wore badges with the name of Ugicom and Time Warner, evidence that they were not independent of Ugicom.
- Ugicom did not allow installers to negotiate on price; the installers had to take whatever pay was authorized for specific jobs.
- The installers did not advertise their services to the community, evidence that they had an ongoing relationship with Ugicom.
- The independent-contractor agreements that the installers signed contained a clause that prohibited them from working for Ugicom’s competitors.
- Minimal skill was required for the work. The installer’s job was basically to dig ditches to bury cable and to connect the cable to a box on the home.
Read the full story at Ohio Supreme Finds Ditch Diggers Misclassified as Independent Contractors