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Is a Police Officer Working at a Georgia Grocery Store an “Employee” of the Store?

On Behalf of | Dec 17, 2018 | Workers' Compensation Case Law |

Georgia workers’ compensation claimants may run into issues if their employer claims they are an independent contractor, rather than an employee. In a recent case, a state supreme court considered whether a deputy working security part-time at a grocery store was an employee of the store.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the deputy was employed by both the sheriff’s department and the grocery store. While he was working, he saw a woman he believed was shoplifting, approached her, and found merchandise that she had concealed. The woman was escorted to the manager’s office, and the deputy placed her under arrest. She asked to use the bathroom, and when he uncuffed her, she ran. While he was running after her, he sprained his ankle and was out of work for five weeks. The grocery store argued that it did not have to pay workers’ compensation benefits for the deputy’s injuries because he was an independent contractor, not an employee.

The court explained that it was not important that the deputy was paid by the store, because that is true for both employees and independent contractors. The court reasoned that he was not an employee because he had to obtain permission from the sheriff’s department to provide security at the store, the sheriff’s department required him to wear his uniform and carry his gun and handcuffs, he was not trained by the store, and the store did not interview him for the job. The court found that all of the factors pointed to the conclusion that the deputy was an independent contractor and, thus, was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from the store.


Independent Contractors under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act

Under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee is defined as a person “in the service of another under any contract of hire or apprenticeship, written or implied,” subject to certain exceptions. In contrast to an employee, an independent contractor is typically not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from the principal contractor.

Whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor is not always straightforward, just as the case above shows. Georgia law requires that the employer have a right of control over the employee. What that means is that an employer has a right to control how the work is completed, and not just the final product. There are several other factors courts will consider in determining whether there is an employer-employee relationship, including whether an independent contractor relationship was intended and how the worker is paid.

Contact an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Law Firm With over 90 Years of Combined Experience

If you have been injured at work, you may be entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits, even if your employer claims that you are an independent contractor. The workers’ compensation attorneys at the Atlanta law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. have the dedication and experience you need to feel comfortable placing your case in their hands. Our attorneys are passionate about fighting for the rights of injured workers throughout Georgia, including in and around the Atlanta area. Call us at 404-920-4708 or fill out the form on our website.