When unemployment rates are high, employers have more power over workers. Workers may be reluctant to report safety issues or misconduct on-the-job because they fear they won’t find another position if they are retaliated against. Workers, eager to find any employment they can obtain, may also be more willing to take a job in which they are classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee.
While independent contractors get a paycheck, they got none of the other benefits associated with being an official employee, including workers’ compensation coverage and workplace benefits. Unfortunately, construction workers in Georgia continue to face troublingly high levels of unemployment even as more opportunities are becoming available nationwide.
If you are working construction in Georgia and you have been hurt, you need to understand what options you have for pursuing a claim for money and benefits. If your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor and not purchased workers’ compensation coverage, you may still pursue a case to seek payment for losses. An Atlanta construction accident lawyer can help you to understand and pursue the legal avenues available for recovering monetary damages after you’ve been hurt or someone you love has been killed.
Construction Workers Face Serious On-the-Job Injury Risks in Atlanta
Construction Dive reports unemployment in the construction industry declined in 49 out of 50 states between March and April. Unemployment rates are also down in 45 states when comparing April 2014 and April 2015. Nationwide, unemployment among construction workers has fallen to 6.7 percent, which is the lowest rate in the month of May since 2006. The decline in unemployment rates has been attributed to a pickup in the housing market.
A close look at data from Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., however, shows the news is not as good for Georgia construction workers as it is in the rest of the United States. Georgia is ranked 49th out of 50 states and has a higher unemployment rate for construction workers than any other state in the country except for West Virginia. In April of 2015 (the most recent available data), there was a 10.8 percent unemployment rate in the construction sector in the state. This is lower than the 13 percent unemployment rate in this field in April of 2014 but still considerably higher than the national average.
Construction workers struggling with high unemployment rates may face more dangerous work conditions than in states where employers have to compete to find qualified staff. Workers may also be forced into jobs where their employees incorrectly treat them as “independent contractors,” which is a growing problem in the construction industry.
The Department of Labor has reported that in some states almost 40 percent of all construction workers are misclassified. There are two different ways misclassification increases the likelihood of workplace injuries. First, employers aren’t subject to OSHA requirements since OSHA doesn’t cover self-employed people. Second, independent contractors don’t get workers’ comp coverage, so employers don’t need to worry about their workers’ compensation premiums rising following a series of on-the-job injuries.
Hopefully, the job market will begin to improve for construction workers in Georgia as it has nationwide and workers will have more opportunity to find safe worksites. Until this happens, be sure you know your rights and get legal help if you get hurt or your employer is putting you into an unsafe environment.
Parsons & Associates, P.C. is an Atlanta workers’ compensation law firm serving Atlanta, Savannah, and surrounding areas throughout Fulton County. Contact Parsons & Associates, P.C. today at 770-422-9000 or contact us online if you have been injured at work.