Whether one is an employee is always an interesting question in workers' compensation.
Many employers, and workers for that matter, erroneously believe that if they are designated as an independent contractor for tax purposes, receiving a 1099 report on their wages, that they are not employees for workers' compensation matters. This is a relatively common occurrence.
But the issue can arise in other contexts, and a recent California case highlights this paradox.
Sierra Madre is a small city in the north-east sector of Los Angeles County.
Kailyn Enriquez applied for a position as a firefighter for the Sierra Madre Fire Department in October 2007. The city selected her to work as a probationary volunteer firefighter the following January.
The city hires and fires volunteer firefighters, sets the rules and regulations for their work, requires them to work specific shifts and to arrive on time and requires them to report to supervisors and to work within the framework of the SMFD. Volunteer firefighters also receive training and workers' compensation coverage.
The city pays volunteer firefighters a stipend of $1 per day, every 90 days, and also pays the volunteers $33 per day if they are "hired out" to other agencies.
On April 10, 2008, Enriquez began the background check procedure required for employment by the Sierra Madre Police Department.
Four months later, the SMFD issued her a disciplinary notice stating that she was "[d]ishonest," "[d]isobedient" and had taken actions that...