I have worked as a massage therapist for several different hotels. After 17 years and now 61 years old, I have multiple injuries from tendonitis to arthritis to rotator cuff injuries. W/O insurance I have little medical documentation, though some. I slug it through, quit working for a while to heal myself and start again only to reinjure myself quicker. The hotels I work at insist I am an independent contractor, not an employee and I have no recourse to WC. I have worked in both California and Washington. Where do I get answers for this how do I start a SSD claim?
Just because the hotels tell you that you are an independent contractor doesn't mean that it is so. It is not determinative that they classify you and/or tell you that you are an independent contractor. Whether you are an independent contractor or an employee is based on a number of factors, but what it really boils down to is control. How much control does the employer/hotel have over your actions. I recently had a case just like yours, same profession and all, where the "employer" was arguing the independent contractor stance. This was all just smoke and mirrors and it was later determined that an employer/employee relationship existed. With that being said, don't write off workers' compensation as an option for you. Based on the information you provided, and if you do decide to pursue workers' compensation, you would file an occupational disease claim as opposed to claiming a specific industrial injury. It is important to note that there are specific timelines that need to be followed in filing claims with the Department of Labor & Industries. More specific facts would be needed to advise you regarding your independent contractor/employee situation as well as whether a workers' compensation claim would be an appropriate route for you to explore. As you mentioned in your question, filing for Social Security Disability wouldn't be a bad idea either. The Social Security Administration website is full of information on how to start the process (http://www.ssa.gov/pgm/disability.htm).
Several issues are presented in your question. In Washington:
Are you a worker or are you an independent contractor? The hotel's saying you are an IC does not make it so. There is a statutory test. A worker's comp attorney can help you figure out your correct status. It may be different with different employers, depending on the facts of employment.
If you are a worker, you are automatically covered, whether or not your employer thinks you are and whether or not he pays your premiums.
If you are an independent contractor with a business license, you can buy your own WC coverage. L&I can assist with that.
A SSD claim is started through the social security administration. You do not need an attorney to start a claim. If denied contact an attorney.
I am sorry to hear about your injuries. The best thing to do is to contact a SSD attorney right away. I do not practice in this area, but recently attended a seminar in which this was discussed. The speaker said the process can talk twice as long if you don't have an attorney and the process is difficult to navigate by yourself. I would start your search in the Everett area. Best of luck to you.
Arthur D. Leritz
I agree with the other responses about whether you are independent contractor. Please talk to an attorney who is experienced in Washington's workers' compensation law about this. Among the questions will be how you reported income to the IRS. If you have your own business, with your own employer ID number, and UBI# here in WA and its CA counterpart? Did you work only for 1 hotel (or chain) at a time, or were you on call to a number of hotels and did you also have private massage clients?
Anyone beginning a business in Washington can opt into the L&I system when they register their business. While you have to pay premiums, they are based on the type of work and amount of work that do in Washington each quarter. From your note, it sounds like you don't have your own coverage.
With respect to SSD -- while you may apply on your own, I prefer to help clients with that initial filing. I help my clients document their disability from the outset, frequently expediting their benefits. I can also help you avoid the pitfalls of describing your activities without advise. For example, we had a client who applied on his own and came to us only after he'd been denied. As part of his application process, he completed the Function Report, indicating that he could cook, clean, drive, do laundry and generally take care of himself. The judge relied on those representations in denying his benefits at hearing. What the client didn't include in his function report, was that he could do only 1 or 2 activities in any given day and that there were days on which he needed help with even the most basic tasks.
While we tried to explain this to the judge at the hearing, the judge believed the claimant's initial description of his function and denied his benefits.
Please give me, or some other attorney who is experienced with both Social Security and Workers' Compensation here in Washington.
Leonard W. Moen & Associates
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