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What Do You Think: May La. Office Cleaner in Car Accident Between Jobsites Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits?  

13 Nov, 2023 Chris Parker

question mark 2492009 640

New Orleans, LA ( -- Independent contractors generally are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. But there is an exception in Louisiana that has the potential to bring a multitude of workers within the scope of the workers’ compensation act. 

A case involving an office cleaner is illustrative. The claimant worked for Lakeside Janitorial cleaning office spaces. Lakeside had little control over the manner or times in which she performed her work. She drove between the different office buildings she cleaned using her personal vehicle. Sometimes, her husband came with her, but she personally did all the work. 

One day, the claimant was driving between two locations that she was assigned to clean when a car ran a red light and struck her vehicle, causing her to lose control and crash into a pole. 

A workers’ compensation law judge denied the claim on the basis that the claimant was an independent contractor, not an employer, of Lakeside. 

The claimant appealed. 

On appeal, the court explained that the first hurdle for obtaining workers’ compensation benefits is for a claimant to establish that she is an employee. Under Louisiana law, an independent contractor, with an important exception, is not an employee. 

Does cleaner’s independent contractor status bar benefits? 
A. No. Her job largely consisted of physical rather than mental work. 
B. Yes. She was not an employee and she could have delegated her work. 

If you selected A, you agreed with the court in Zambrano v. Lakeside Janitorial, L.L.C., No.  23-CA-49 (Ariz. Ct. App. 10/31/23), which held that the “manual labor” exception to the independent contractor rule applied. 

The court noted that while Louisiana law excludes from cover those workers who are "independent contractors," it also creates a coverage exception for independent contractors who spend a substantial part of their time working in manual labor. 

“In order for an independent contractor to be covered under the ‘manual labor exception,’ he must show that a ‘substantial part’ of the time he worked for the principal was spent performing manual labor duties,” the court wrote. 

The claimant’s testimony showed that that the physical aspect of her work predominated over the mental aspect. Thus, while the claimant was an independent contractor, she was largely engaged in manual labor, the court held. 

The court rejected the company’s argument that the manual labor exception did not apply, because the claimant could have delegated her cleaning duties to others and maintained a strictly supervisory role. Even if that were true, the court stated, “supervisors are sometimes included among those performing manual labor, because supervisory and manual duties are not necessarily contradictory when determining compensation coverage.” 

The court vacated the workers’ compensation judge’s dismissal of the case and remanded the decision. 

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