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S. G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations

Supreme Court of California

March 23, 1989

No. S003956

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

On its own motion, the court reviewed the judgment of the Court of Appeal (California) that laborers engaged to harvest cucumbers under a written "sharefarmer" agreement were "independent contractors" exempt from workers' compensation coverage and not "employees."

Overview

Defendant, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement of the Department of Industrial Relations rejected plaintiff employer's contentions that agricultural laborers engaged to harvest cucumbers under a written "sharefarmer" agreement were "independent contractors" exempt from workers' compensation coverage. Plaintiff appealed. The superior court found that the agency's decision was supported by the evidence. Plaintiff appealed to the court of appeal, which reversed the superior court decision. On its own motion, the court reviewed and reversed the judgment of the court of appeal because plaintiff had failed to meet his burden of proof under the statutory "control-of-work" test. The court held that the laborers were "employees" because plaintiff retained control over their work.

Outcome

The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal that laborers engaged to harvest cucumbers under a written "sharefarmer" agreement were "independent contractors" exempt from workers' compensation coverage and not "employees" because plaintiff employer controlled their work.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Workers' Compensation & SSDI > Coverage > Employment Status > Contractors

Workers' Compensation & SSDI > Compensability > Course of Employment > General Overview

Workers' Compensation & SSDI > Coverage > General Overview

Workers' Compensation & SSDI > Coverage > Employment Status > General Overview

HN1  Employment Status, Contractors

The Workers' Compensation Act extends only to injuries suffered by an "employee," which arise out of and in the course of his "employment." Cal. Lab. Code §§ 3600, 3700; Cal. Const. art. XIV, § 4 (original version at Cal. Const. art. XX, § 21). "Employees" include most persons in the service of an employer under any contract of hire, Cal. Lab. Code § 3351, but do not include independent contractors. The Workers' Compensation Act defines an "independent contractor" as any person who renders service for a specified recompense for a specified result, under the control of his principal as to the result of his work only and not as to the means by which such result is accomplished. § 3353.

 

Business & Corporate Law > ... > Duties & Liabilities > Causes of Action & Remedies > Burdens of Proof

Workers' Compensation & SSDI > Defenses > General Overview

Workers' Compensation & SSDI > Coverage > General Overview

HN2  Causes of Action & Remedies, Burdens of Proof

The determination of employee or independent-contractor status is one of fact if dependent upon the resolution of disputed evidence or inferences, and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement of the Department of Industrial Relations' decision must be upheld if substantially supported. If the evidence is undisputed, the question becomes one of law, but deference to the agency's view is appropriate. The label placed by the parties on their relationship is not dispositive, and subterfuges are not countenanced. The Workers' Compensation Act must be liberally construed to extend benefits to persons injured in their employment. Cal. Lab. Code § 3202. One seeking to avoid liability has the burden of proving that persons whose services he has retained are independent contractors rather than employees. Cal. Lab. Code §§ 3357, 5705(a).

 

Workers' Compensation & SSDI > Coverage > General Overview

HN3  Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Coverage

The principal test of an employment relationship is whether the person to whom service is rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired.

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48 Cal. 3d 341 ; 769 P.2d 399 ; 256 Cal. Rptr. 543 ; 1989 Cal. LEXIS 975 ; 54 Cal. Comp. Cases 80

S. G. BORELLO & SONS, INC., Plaintiff and Appellant, v. DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, Defendant and Respondent

Prior History:  [1]  Superior Court of Santa Clara County, No. 587811, Jack Komar, Judge.

Disposition:  We therefore hold as a matter of law that Borello has failed to demonstrate the cucumber sharefarmers are independent contractors excluded from coverage under the Act. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeal, directing the superior court to grant Borello's petition for writ of mandate, is reversed.