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What Do You Think: Was Pilot who Racked up Flying time at Ill. Sky-diving Company ‘Employee?’

02 Jun, 2023 Chris Parker

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Geneseo, IL (–Whether someone who volunteers for a company is an employee for purposes of workers’ compensation depends on whether there was an employment contract—even an unspoken one.

A case involving a pilot who volunteered to take skydivers into the air helps illuminate the types of factors that may create or negate the existence of an employer-employee relationship.

The pilot flew on Sundays for eight hours for Quad City Skydiving Center. She did so because it was a way to increase her flight hours, which would help her to become licensed to fly commercial jets.

If she had not flown for Quad City, she would have had to pay $195 per hour to rent a plane. While she benefited from the arrangement, Quad City also benefited by having a pilot to get its skydivers into the air. Quad City paid for the pilot’s fuel but did not pay her wages. It did not obtain workers’ compensation insurance or withhold any federal or state taxes for her.

The pilot crashed during a landing, sustaining injuries, including one which required her to undergo reconstructive nasal surgery. She filed a workers’ compensation claim.

The court explained that workers’ compensation benefits are only available to employees. An employer-employment relationship exists if there is an express or implied contract for employment. A true employer-employee relationship does not exist, the court stated, in the absence of the payment or expected payment of consideration in some form by the employer to the employee.

Was the pilot an employee of the company?

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