Why is 1099 work a problem for off-duty officers?
In 2012, the Washington State Court of Appeals decided the case of Gary Merlino Construction Company Inc. vs. The City of Seattle. This was a 2008 case in which an off-duty officer, who was flagging traffic on a Merlino construction project, was hit by a car and sustained serious injuries. Because the officer was being paid on a 1099, Merlino Construction argued that the officer was not their employee, and declined to cover his injuries. The City of Seattle took the position that since he was off-duty, he was not their employee at the time of injury, and declined to cover his injuries. The “scheduler” of the off-duty work argued that they only scheduled him, and were not the employer. This case made its way to the Washington State Court of Appeals. The court decided that Merlino, for a number of reasons, was the employer in this case. After this decision, companies wanting to hire off-duty officers were put on notice that if they are not hiring off-duty officers through a company who treats the officers as employees, then the liability will likely fall to them.
It is our opinion as a company, that an officer who gets injured while working off-duty on a 1099 status, could potentially find themselves in a position where they are financially responsible for their own medical bills until a court makes a decision. This could be several years, and could result in financial ruin for the officer. By accepting a 1099 for work, you are effectively declaring yourself as “self-employed”,
We were also advised by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries during our discussions with them in 2010, that they view all 1099 work as problematic due to the fact that nobody is paying into L&I for the worker.
Seattle’s Finest is a Washington State Employer with L&I coverage and a multi-million-dollar liability policy in place. This ensures that the officers are covered in the event of an accident or injury, and greatly reduces potential liability to their agency.