Wednesday, May 2, 2018

PA Commonwealth Court: Security consultant was employee, not independent contractor

As longtime readers know, independent contractor versus employee classification is one of my favorite issues. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently added a new unemployment compensation case to the mix: HPM Consulting v. UCBR.

These cases are often convoluted, and very fact-intensive. This case involved a safety consultant, who signed multiple contracts with HPM Consulting to go to other states and work. The contracts specifically referred to him as a "1099 contractor" (1099 refers to the tax form, and is issued to independent contractors as opposed to employees, who receive W-2s).

Of course, labels on a contract are not controlling on the courts. The majority opinion still concluded that the consultant was an employee. The worker did not solicit his own work, did not pay for his certifications, and HPM set his rate of pay.

Two points worth noting: (1) in unemployment compensation cases, we start with a strong presumption that someone working in exchange for compensation is an employee; and (2) in unemployment compensation cases, the UCBR is the ultimate fact-finder (if it has evidence to support its conclusion).

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