by Bernard D. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
Although uncommon, some employers pay individuals to work for them by means other than monetary compensation. An individual who is in this situation need not fret, however, because they may still be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits if injured on the job.
In order to receive workers’ compensation benefits, an individual must be considered an employee. Under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee is someone who receives consideration or compensation for their work. Compensation for an employee does not necessarily have to be in the traditional form of money however, in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. To the contrary, consideration for employment can be anything of value.
An employer may avoid monetary compensation for any number of reasons. On the same token, individuals may accept nonmonetary compensation for any number of reasons. Non-traditional compensation take many different forms. Room and board, clothing, food, etc. can all be considered non-monetary contributions or consideration for employment. Any one of these things may qualify an individual as an employee for purposes of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.
Someone who receives nonmonetary compensation is not the same as a volunteer, however. An individual who volunteers or provides gratuitous services is not an employee and has not entered into employment. Typically, volunteers are ineligible to receive workers’ compensation entirely as they are not considered employees.
The court typically looks at several factors in determining whether or not the individual receiving nonmonetary compensation is to be considered an employee or not. Where the individual performs services for another, is not paid an hourly wage, or paid a fixed amount, but is instead compensated with food, housing, or even occasional sums of money, in an amount not determined by the individual, the method of payment does not weigh heavily towards the status of the individual as an employee or worker.
Employee or independent contractor
We all may be familiar with the terminology that dominates any discussion of the issue, but what do we really know about the mechanics behind the classification?
The promise of future employment does not constitute money paid for services under the workers’ compensation definition of a worker. An individual who has been promised future employment is not considered a volunteer, but is instead deemed to be receiving nonmonetary compensation for their employment. This makes them potentially eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Some common examples that the court has deemed to have employee status include: a person convicted of a crime who performs community service instead of paying a fine, volunteer ambulance corps and others who receive consideration other than money for their services.
Most courts will decide whether or not an individual is to be considered an employee on a case-by-case factual basis. If you have questions about whether you are an employee and entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for an on the job accident, please contact the attorneys at the Nomberg Law Firm. (205) 930-6900.
Bernard D. Nomberg has practiced law in Alabama for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Rated Attorney by B-Metro Magazine.
 82 Am. Jur. 2d Workers’ Compensation § 123 Generally
 82 Am. Jur. 2d Workers’ Compensation § 126 Nonmonetary Compensation
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