Ms B v. States Employment Board: Constructive Unfair Dismissal Linked To Personal Injury Claim

by gclatworthy on August 4, 2012

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The case of Ms B v States Employment Board is not exactly widely known. Not only did it happen in the States of Jersey, a small island in the English Channel, but it seemed outwardly to only deal with a small and arcane aspect of English common law. However, this case, due to its status of dealing with common law, could be presented as a persuasive ruling in any court derived from the common law, including those in the United States. As such, it has rapidly been used to clarify the status of an employee, with various states adopting or rejecting its interpretation.

Legal History

Originally, the common law defined employees as any person who was not a peasant, i.e. they were paid for their work in cash and owed no feudal duties to a landlord. However, the industrial revolution made this complex, as many persons wished to have more freedom of agency and direction than they could have as employees. “Free agents,” which included everything from strike-breaking scabs to freelancers and independent contractors, enabled certain employees to have more freedom while their employers enjoyed less risk, responsibility and liability. However, in modern years, this has led many people to argue that certain employees are contractors instead of true employees in order to avoid legal liability. This is, at heart, what Ms. B’s case was about

Ms. B v. State Employment Board

Ms. B was a woman hired by a hospital which treated mentally ill and potentially dangerous patients. During her regular work hours, she was viciously attacked by one of the patients, and as such she pressed criminal and civil charges against her employer. The company pleaded guilty to the criminal charges, but argued that under the civil charges, in which Ms. B was seeking damages for the personal injuries she sustained, she had no standing, because she was not an employee. Instead they pointed to the limited nature and duration of her employment to argue that she was an independent contractor, not an employee. However, the court disagreed. Our expert personal injury lawyer New Hampshire explains that although the company wished to call Ms. B an independent contractor in order to avoid liability, the court felt that the fact that she worked, was paid and employed like a regular employee made her one.

Implications of the Ruling

The end argument of this ruling is that companies cannot argue that employees are independent contractors unless they are employed under a contract which makes this clear and gives them sufficient “compensation” for their tenuous employment status. For example, if they are more easily able to leave the job in favor of other work, or to turn down specific assignments, or to be exempt from various employee programs, then they may be an independent contractor. This decision, prevents companies from trying to have it “both ways” by forcing employees to be independent contractors while depriving them of the increased pay and freedom such status would normally merit. This also enables employees who might otherwise not be able to sue their employer civilly, such as for personal injury claims, to do so, and to subject their employer to federal employment statutes and legislation.

Attornies dealing with any aspect of employment law foresee that this ruling, along with many others, will arm them with the right and ability to sue an employer for damages. This will help you attain a better legal standing, and will force your employer to take care of you. Therefore, if you are an employee who has been harmed on the job, yet your employer disputes your right to damages, you should consult an attorney right away.

This article was written by Georgina Clatworthy who has written numerous articles on aspects of personal injury claims and employment law. Once the former editor of repsected legal blog 1Lawyersource, she is now a contributing writer for the personal injury lawyer New Hampshire-based firm of Tenn and Tenn. They have extensive trial experience when it comes to complicated litigation and have helped many clients achieve a favorable verdict or settlement.

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