Pilot's Joint Employment Renders 2 Companies Equally Responsible for Benefits

                               

Lafayette, LA (WorkersCompensation.com) -- Companies in Louisiana which jointly employee a worker are both responsible for his workers’ compensation benefits. 

In a joint employment situation, the amount each company must contribute to workers’ compensation benefits hinges on the percentage of salary each company pays the individual. Moreover, it may having nothing to do with how much time the employee gave each company. Biggs v. Southern Development Lifestyles, LLC, No. 22-463 (La. Ct. App. 03/22/23).

The pilot crashed just after take-off. He died in the crash, leaving behind a spouse and a child. His wife and daughter thereafter sought benefits from the two companies which, the wife claimed, jointly employed her husband. 

One of the companies, SLD, claimed that the Workers' Compensation Judge erred in finding that it and the other company, GDS, were joint employers of the pilot at the time of his Dec. 28, 2019, accident.

The court disagreed. It explained that under Louisiana law, when an employee is paid jointly by two or more employers, the employers must contribute to workers' compensation payments in proportion to the wages which each employer paid to the employee. La.R.S. 23:1031(B).

The court, in finding that the two companies jointly employed the pilot, and were equally responsible for his workers’ compensation benefits, pointed to the following:

The former CEO of GDS testified that the companies entered into an agreement for joint use of an airplane, on an as-needed basis, with each company being responsible for payment of one-half of the fixed costs associated with the plane’s operation, including the salary and benefits paid to the pilot. 

  • The pilot was required to be on call to pilot the plane and would receive compensation regardless of whether he flew. 
  • The obligation of each company to pay one-half of the pilot’s salary and benefits, was not based on any percentage of use attributable to either entity in any given time period. 
  • The pilot’s salary and benefits were in fact paid jointly each month by the companies whether he flew or not.
  • The court also hinted at the fairness of the result. “SLD and GDS benefited from having a plane and a pilot at half the cost,” the court wrote. 
  • The court held that the two companies were joint employers of the pilot and, as such, were “solidarily liable to Claimants for workers' compensation benefits arising from his death.”
  • The court granted summary judgment to the pilot’s surviving daughter and wife.

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