Will Proposed Labor Law Affect Maryland Workers Comp?

The laws and regulations governing Maryland Workers Comp cases are in place to protect people who are injured at work or in the course of doing their jobs. But what happens if you’re employed as an “independent contractor,” as are so many plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters, and other trades people in the construction industry, where serious and fatal accidents can and do happen?

Do you have the same rights to Maryland Workers Compensation benefits if you’re injured on the job in Maryland? A bill before Maryland lawmakers is tackling the issue of independent contractors’ rights. As the law stands now, employers who classify workers as “independent contractors” are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation premiums. So if you’re injured on the job and you’re classified as an independent contractor — you’re on your own.

According to a report in The Washington Post, state officials believe as many as 20 percent of Maryland’s blue-collar workers are wrongly classified as independent contractors. The Maryland Governor is calling on the General Assembly to make it illegal for employers to misclassify workers as independent contractors. Building industry representatives object to the proposed law, which would fine business owners $5,000 for each worker they knowingly misclassified. Repeat offenders would receive additional fines and could be debarred and put out of business.

Aside from the steep fines and penalties, employer objections to the proposed Maryland bill stem from the cost of providing benefits to workers in a recessive housing and building market, where competition to win jobs with the lowest possible bid is fierce. The Post reported that employers who pay workers as independent contractors save up to 30 percent in payroll costs.

If it passes, the Maryland State Labor Commission would enforce the law. An experienced Maryland Workers Compensation attorney can help determine who is responsible if a contractor or subcontractor is hurt in the course of doing their job.

Labor Proposal Targets Builders: Low-Wage Workers’ Treatment a Worry
The Washington Post Feb. 9, 2009
Related Web Resources

Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission

Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation