Newspaper Beats Suit Alleging Employee Status
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a newspaper delivery person’s petition for allowance of appeal on March 30, 2021. The claimant filed a claim petition in 2018, alleging that he suffered serious injuries to his right leg after slipping and falling on ice when he was delivering newspapers. The newspaper asserted that the claimant was an independent contractor. The case was bifurcated to determine whether the claimant was an employee. After fully litigating the issue, the Workers’ Compensation Judge found in favor of the newspaper and found that the case was not so different than the seminal case of Johnson v. WCAB (DuBois Courier Express), 631 A.2d 693 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1993). The Johnson court held that a newspaper carrier was an independent contractor because the newspaper did not exercise substantial control over his activities.
The claimant appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board. After hearing argument and reviewing the parties’ briefs, the Board affirmed the judge’s decision and order. The claimant appealed to the Commonwealth Court, urging the court to consider the evolving nature of the newspaper delivery business in rendering its decision. The court refused to do so and highlighted the lack of control by the newspaper because there was no prohibition on delivering competing newspapers or enlisting a substitute without prior notice or permission. The Commonwealth Court’s decision, which was issued as a non-precedential opinion, is the latest in an unbroken line of similar cases holding that newspaper carriers are independent contractors.
The claimant’s suit ended when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the petition for allowance of appeal.