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Friday, June 19, 2015

Distinguishing between a covered employee and an independent contractor for the purposes of eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits


Distinguishing between a covered employee and an independent contractor for the purposes of eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits
2015 NY Slip Op 04550, Appellate Division, Third Department

A law firm [Firm] appealed a decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board [Board] which assessed Firm for additional unemployment insurance contributions after ruling that a claimant [Lawyer] for unemployment insurance benefits for eligible for such benefits.

Lawyer had been retained as a "contract attorney" by the Firm to perform document review services in conjunction with the litigation of a class action lawsuit. After his assignment ended, Lawyer applied for unemployment insurance benefits and . The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board ruled that Lawyer was the Firm’s employee and assessed it for additional unemployment insurance contributions as a result.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s decision explaining that "Whether an employer-employee relationship exists is a factual determination for the Board, and its decision will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence." Citing Matter of LaValley, 120 AD2d 1498, the court said that "in cases where the rendering of professional services is involved, an employment relationship can be found where there is substantial evidence of control over important aspects of the services performed other than results or means."

The decision indicates that Lawyer:

1. was paid an agreed-upon hourly rate and required to work at least 45 hours a week, but not more than 50 hours per week;

2. was given specified hours each day to report to his assigned work station;

3. was required to take a daily unpaid 30 minute lunch break and was occasionally required to report to work on weekends;

4. was allowed to take unpaid days off, provided that he requested the time off in advance;

5. received daily assignments from an associate attorney employed by the Firm and who supervised Lawyer’s work; and

6. assisted in the litigation by providing written memoranda summarizing deposition testimony, work that included Lawyer's attendance at meetings with attorneys from other firms involved in the litigation.

These elements, said the Appellate Division, constituted “substantial evidence” supporting the Board's decision that the Firm retained sufficient overall control of Lawyers services to establish an employment relationship, despite evidence in the record that could support a contrary conclusion.

Significantly, the court commented that “The fact that [Lawyer] signed a written agreement designating him as an independent contractor does not compel a different result, citing Matter of Joyce, 116 AD3d 1132.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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