Published On: Wed, May 23rd, 2018

Workplace Safety: Supreme Court Pushes For More Employer Accountability

Over half of all US companies firmly believe in the power of outsourcing. In fact, in 2016 alone, a whopping 57% of companies in the US upped their use of it. Unfortunately, its benefits seem to end with employers.

Employer Accountability

According to a San Francisco Chronicle report by Rebecca Smith, outsourcing ultimately creates an unfavorable working environment for employees because it removes any employer accountability in cases of workplace injuries, payment issues and even fatalities—even if they happen on company premises. Whenever things like these happen, all the employer has to do is pass the blame onto the outsourcing firm and its business as usual.

How it works

Take Tesla for example. When one of the employees it hired through a subcontractor suffered a broken jaw due to getting hit by a skid carrier on April 9, the company was quick to point fingers at the subcontractor. According to a statement released by the company, the procedure being performed by the victim was designed by and was under the supervision of the subcontractor. This is basically the same as saying that even though the incident happened on company premises, Tesla could not be held legally accountable for it. The problem is that this statement is, for all intents and purposes, legally correct. After all, the victim is technically not a Tesla employee—at least not on paper.

California Supreme Court not buying it

According to Smith’s report, the state Supreme Court is pushing to make employers more accountable in cases like Tesla’s, saying that contract workers may, in some cases, legally be considered regular employees regardless of the way in which they are hired. According to its ruling on the case between Dynamex Operations West and the company’s employees, there are three conditions for this to happen. First, the worker must be under the direct control and instruction of the employer in the performance of everyday tasks; second, the work being performed falls within the typical course of the company’s business; and third, the worker is not regularly independently engaged in the same type of business that they are performing for the company.

The ruling gives contract workers a fighting chance

Just like full-time employees, contract workers deserve safe and fair working conditions—and the state Supreme Court’s ruling is a step in the right direction in making sure that happens. By alerting employers to the fact that outsourcing and subcontracting are no longer as bulletproof a cop-out as they once were when it comes to company-worker disputes, the ruling will inevitably force businesses to reevaluate their hiring and employment practices. And even if the changes don’t happen right away, the ruling has, at the very least, given contract workers a better fighting chance while waiting for things to get better.