Messenger Establishes Employment Relationship in Workers’ Compensation Case

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has found that a bicycle messenger was an employee of a courier service and was therefore entitled to benefits, despite an agreement stating that the messenger was an independent contractor.

The case arose from an injury the bicycle messenger received when he was struck from behind by a vehicle while making a delivery. Evidence submitted in the case indicated that the messenger and the courier service had signed an independent contractor agreement, and that the messenger had also signed an agreement with the National Independent Contractor Association. The agreements provided that the messenger would be paid by the association after deductions were made for general liability insurance and bicycle insurance, as well as for leasing fees for a radio and other equipment.

Despite the language of the agreements, the commission affirmed the decision of the arbitrator, finding that the messenger was an employee of the courier service. The commission relied on a previous decision involving the same courier service and a nearly identical independent contractor agreement. In finding that the messenger was not an independent contractor in the previous decision, the current commission noted that the courier service still exercised control over the messenger’s work schedule and other work details. The commission also considered the fact that the messenger’s work was the lifeblood of the courier service business and that the work did not involve particular skills.

In both decisions, the commission found that an employer-employee relationship existed between the messenger and the courier service.

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