Court Cleans Up Definition of Employee Under Worker’s Comp Law (NJ)

One of the key issues in dealing with workers’ compensation benefits is who is considered to be an “employee” under the law.  Recently, the Appellate Division determined that an employee is not necessarily someone who comes to clean your home.

In Lukasik v. Holloway, the Appellate Division reversed the judgment of the workers’ compensation judge who found that a cleaning woman was an employee of the owners of the home where she was injured.  The cleaning woman, Luz Lukasik, had contracted with the homeowners to clean their home once per week for the sum of $100.  On the first day of her scheduled cleaning she was injured, sustaining a fractured hand and wrist.  Thereafter, she returned to work, but had others do the cleaning at her direction.

The workers’ compensation court found that Lukasik was an employee under the statute, and that she was entitled to more than 110 weeks of benefits due to her injuries.  The Appellate Division reversed, holding that Lukasik was an independent contractor because she retained primary control over what work she would do, when she would do it, and how the work would be performed.  Additionally, Lukasik was not substantially financially dependent upon the homeowners for her income, nor were her services somehow integral to the homeowners’ regular business.  Lukasik was merely cleaning their home.

While the Appellate Division specifically stated that it did not find that cleaning people are always independent contractors, this opinion does clarify where the line will be drawn.

Thanks to Christina Fullam-Emerson for her contribution to this post.  If you would like further information, please write to mbono@wcmlaw.com