Nailed: A fraud prevention and compliance blog

Written by Elizabeth Smith,
L&I's Assistant Director for
Fraud Prevention and
Labor Standards

Oct. 25, 2010

Tragedy reveals hidden cost of independent contractor label

A Burien man lost his life recently while working as a tow truck driver for a Seattle-area towing company. News reports detailed how a motorist struck and killed the man while he assisted a disabled vehicle along I 5.

The victim’s family contacted L&I requesting customary death benefits to help with his burial. That’s when we discovered his employer had not paid for the insurance that would entitle his family to death benefits.

The owner of the tow truck company claims the victim was an independent contractor, not an employee. Even though the man was insured by the company and drove company-owned trucks, the owner insists the man killed met the guidelines to qualify him as an independent contractor.

We’re opening a review of this incident and the towing company to determine if these claims hold water.

In this worst-case scenario, an already heartbroken family must wait for the result of an L&I audit before they know whether there are benefits available to help lay their loved one to rest.

The sad truth is that the workers – and their families – end up losing the most when employers misclassify their employees in an effort to save money on industrial insurance premiums.

Tell us if you suspect that your employer has misclassified you. It’s not worth the risk – to you or your loved ones.

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