When is a Person an Employee of Another?

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On July 19, 2011, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a decision which I found surprising in McCann v. City of Anderson, ___ N.E.2d ___ (Ind. Ct. App. 2011), Cause No. 48A02-1009-PL-1060. At issue was whether a trial court had properly granted summary judgment on the question of whether a warrant officer was an employee of the Anderson City Court. Despite the procedural posture of the case and factors that weighed in favor of finding an employer-employee relationship, the Court affirmed a decision granting summary judgment to the defendants.

In this case, McCann was a police officer, who eventually became warrant officer for the Anderson City Court in 1998. He held that post until 2005, when the judge asked that McCann be reassigned. As a result of this dismissal, McCann filed suit based on the Indiana Wage Statute, arguing that he had been an employee of the Court and was entitled to funds that had been allocated to the position of warrant officer by that court. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and the trial court granted the defendants' motion.

On appeal, the Court quoted GKN Co. v. Magness, 744 N.E.2d 397, 402 (Ind. 2001), for the seven factors that a court should consider when determining whether an employer-employee relationship exists. The Court then analyzed each of these factors and determined that three weighed in favor of the existence an employer-employee relationship and four against, with the "most important" factor weighing against.

Thus, over all, four of the seven factors, including the most important, "Control over the Means Used," indicate McCann was not an employee of the City Court. Because the City Court was not McCann's employer, he cannot be due any "unpaid wages" from the City Court. Therefore, he cannot assert a claim against the City Court under the Indiana Wage Statute.

The aspect of this decision that is most surprising is that the Court reached this conclusion despite the procedural posture of the case. It could have easily held that, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to McCann, the seven factors weighed both for and against a finding of an employer-employee relationship between McCann and the City Court created a genuine issue of material fact. This indicates that the factor the Court identified as being "most important", whether the purported employer exercised control over the means used by the purported employee to perform work, is very important indeed.

Lesson:

1.It will be exceedingly difficult to prove the existence of an employer-employee relationship if the purported employer did not exercise control over the means that the purported employee used to perform his work.

Brad A. Catlin
Price Waicukauski & Riley, LLC

http://www.indianalawupdate.com/entry/When-is-a-Person-an-Employee-of-Another

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