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How to determine whether an Unemployment Compensation Claimant is an Independent Contractor in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, there is a presumption under Unemployment Compensation Law (“Law”) that an individual receiving wages is an employee and not an independent contractor engaged in self-employmentElectrolux Corporation v. Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Employer Tax Operations, 705 A.2d 1357, 1359–60 (Pa.Cmwlth.1998).  However, an employer can overcome this presumption by establishing that a claimant is self-employed. Id. at 1360.  If an employer can establish that a claimant is an independent contractor (and thus self-employed), the Law provides that such an individual “shall be ineligible for compensation for any week … [i]n which he is engaged in self-employment.” 43 P.S. § 802(h).

An employer establishes that a claimant is self-employed by proving that the claimant was: (1) free from control and direction in the performance of his service; and (2) customarily engaged in an independent trade or business as to that service. See, 43 P.S. § 753(l)(2)(B); see alsoBeacon Flag Car Company, Inc. (Doris Weyant) v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 910 A.2d 103, 107 (Pa.Cmwlth.2006).

As to the first prong of the test , courts consider whether the employer exercised “control” as to the work to be done and the manner in which the work is to be performed.  A number of factors have been identified by the court in determining whether an individual is free of control; they include: “whether there is a fixed rate of remuneration; whether taxes are withheld from the [individual]‘s pay; whether the employer supplies the tools necessary to carry out the services; whether the employer provides on-the-job training; and whether the employer holds regular meetings that the [individual] was expected to attend.” CE Credits OnLine v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 946 A.2d 1162, 1168 (Pa.Cmwlth.2008).  No one factor will control the outcome, but the courts will look to the entire relationship to determine whether the requisite control exists to establish an employer-employee relationship.” Tracy v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 23 A.3d 612, 616 (Pa.Cmwlth.2011).

As to the second prong of the test—whether the claimant is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business—courts consider “whether the individual was capable of performing the activities in question [for] anyone who wished to avail themselves of the services and whether the nature of the business compelled the individual to look to only a single employer for the continuation of such services.” Venango Newspapers v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 158 Pa.Cmwlth. 379, 631 A.2d 1384, 1388 (1993). Where the employee is free to accept or reject an assignment, the individual generally is not considered to look to a single employer for the continuation of such services. Danielle Viktor, Ltd. v. Dep’t of Labor and Indus., Bureau of Employer Tax Operations, 586 Pa. 196, 229, 892 A.2d 781, 801 (2006).