Lara v. WCAB, 2010 WL 654379 (Cal. Ct. App. 2010)

The Metro Diner hired Luis Lara as a gardener twice during a 12-month period to prune the bushes around the diner. Lara fell off the roof of the diner while pruning the bushes and injured his head, back, neck and other parts of his body. After the fall, Lara filed a workers’ compensation claim against Metro and its owner and also joined the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund in the action because Metro had no workers’ compensation insurance. The Workers’ Compensation Judge determined that Lara was an employee of Metro and that he was entitled to benefits. However, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (the “WCAB”) determined that Lara was an independent contractor who paid his own taxes and contracted with numerous individuals to perform different types of jobs. Further, the Board found “no evidence that Metro had the power to control the details of [Lara’s] work in pruning the bushes or the method by which he performed the task.” The Court of Appeal affirmed the WCAB’s decision. See also Merchandising Concept Group, Inc. v. CUIAB, 181 Cal. App. 4th 1274 (2010) (company improperly challenged determination that workers were employees subject to unemployment insurance deductions rather than independent contractors by failing to exhaust administrative remedies).