By Jedidiah McKeehan

One area of law that most people have heard of, even if they do not totally understand it, is worker’s compensation law, which is often shortened to worker’s comp.

Worker’s comp cases are those involving an employee who was injured while performing their duties as an employee for their employer.

When an employee sustains an injury, the employee may make a claim made against the worker’s comp insurance of the employer and the employer’s insurance may have to pay a percentage of the employee’s salary while they are out of work, and then a lump sum amount for any temporary or permanent impairment that they have received as a result of their work-related injury.

Worker’s comp cases in Tennessee do not go through the normal court system.  There are special worker’s comp courts and judges who exclusively handle worker’s comp matters.  I would certainly consider it a specialized area of the law.

When someone believes that they have a worker’s comp case, one of the first things that needs to be established is whether or not there was an employer-employee relationship.  If the person who was injured was not, in fact, an employee, but was instead a subcontractor or independent contractor, then they would not be considered an employee and they would not be entitled to compensation for their injuries.

What factors are used to determine whether someone was an employee or a contractor?  Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-102 lays out those factors for us.  The factors to be considered are: the right to control the conduct of work; the right of termination; the method of payment; the freedom to select and hire helpers; the furnishing of tools and equipment; self-scheduling of working hours; and the freedom to offer services to other entities.

If there is a dispute as to whether someone was an employee or a contractor, a worker’s comp judge will hear testimony from the injured party, the alleged employer, and any other individuals with knowledge about the relationship in regard to these factors and make a ruling on whether there was an employee-employer relationship.

So if the testimony shows that the employer controlled when the employee showed up, provided them with equipment for their work, and did not allow them to perform work for other entities, then the proof would lean towards the existence of an employee-employer relationship.

However, if the testimony shows that the “employer” had no control over when the “employee” showed up, did not control who the “employee” hired to help them with their work, and did not provide them any tools to perform their work, then that proof would lean towards an employee-employer relationship NOT existing.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. Visit for more information.