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Danial v. Indus. Comm’n of Ariz. - 1/15/2019

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that an airport taxicab driver is not an employee of the cab company for workers’ compensation purposes when the airport exercises the most control over the driver’s work.

An airport taxicab driver became injured while driving his taxi and sought workers’ compensation from the cab company.  The cab company denied that request and the driver filed a protest with the Industrial Commission of Arizona.  An administrative law judge entered and later affirmed an award that the claim was non-compensable.  The driver appealed.

Arizona’s workers’ compensation laws provide benefits for employees but not for independent contractors.  Courts apply the control test to differentiate between employees and independent contractors.  The test objectively examines the prospective employer’s right “to control the details of the work” based on the totality of the facts and circumstances.  The Court of Appeals considered the following factual findings by the administrative law judge.  

The driver leased the taxi from the cab company under a standard lease which expressly provided no workers’ compensation insurance by the cab company.  The lease provided that the drivers were designated as independent contractors who would pay their own taxes, could set their own schedules, could work for other cab companies, and kept all fares.  The cab company required an initial driving course and compliance with traffic laws, but it did not conduct performance reviews.

Sky Harbor licenses the cab companies, but it exercises far more control over the work of the drivers than did the cab company.  The Airport requires its own separate application and tests before drivers can work.  It sets the fares, requires E85 fuel, and imposes other professionalism requirements.  The Airport imposes 95 percent of all disciplinary actions against drivers at the airport.  It controls the movement of customers and drivers, providing a waiting area and a dispatcher to direct drivers about when and where to pick up their next passenger.

After reviewing those facts, the Court of Appeals affirmed that the driver was an independent contractor.  The cab company did not exercise the degree or quality of control needed to create an employee-employer relationship.  Rather, most of the indicia of control here were exercised by the Airport and not the cab company.

Judge Weinzweig authored the opinion; Presiding Judge Jones and Judge Swann concurred.

Posted by: Brian K. Mosley

Posted On: 2/7/2019