Lack of Authority to Hire, Fire or Oversee Routine Employment Decisions Deemed Sufficient to Bar Finding of Joint Employment

Recent Win

Argued / Briefed by Christopher M. Emrich, Esq.

On January 22, 2013, the petitioner, a nurse, filed Claim Petition No. 2013-1691, alleging that on March 29, 2012, she slipped and fell in the course of her employment, causing injuries to her lumbar spine and right knee.  She conceded that she fell in the parking lot after finishing her shift and clocking out.  The petitioner was an employee of Corizon, which entered into a contract with Burlington County to provide medical services to the County’s jails.  Corizon denied the compensability of the claim and no benefits were provided.

In September 2014, the petitioner filed a Motion for Medical and Temporary Benefits against Corizon, seeking a total knee replacement.  After a conference with the judge, the petitioner’s attorney filed an amended claim on February 24, 2015, against Burlington County, alleging that Corizon and the County were joint employers.

The matter proceed to trial on April 28, 2015, with the petitioner’s testimony.  Lt. Matthew Leith, was called to testify on behalf of the County on May 19, 2015.  Lt. Leith, a senior officer in the County correctional system, testified regarding the nature of the jails and the relationship between the County employees and the employees of various vendors, including the petitioner.

On June 18, 2015, the petitioner’s attorney subpoenaed Robert Orrick, a senior employee of Corizon, to testify regarding the relationship between Corizon and the County.

After trial, the parties submitted briefs addressing whether the compensability of the accident that took place after the petitioner’s shift in the County parking lot was compensable and the existence of joint employment between Corizon and Burlington County.  A Motion to Dismiss was also filed on behalf of the County for a violation of the statute of limitations, since 2 years passed between the injury and the filing of the amended claim.

Ultimately, Judge Minor found that none of the relevant factors for determining joint employment applied to the petitioner and the County.  In Dismissing the Claim Petition she found the fact that the County did not have the authority to hire, fire or oversee routine employment decisions to be the dispositive factor.  She also agreed with the statute of limitations argument.  Therefore, she dismissed the County.  However, she granted the petitioner’s motion as it relates to Corizon.  Therefore, Corizon is responsible for the petitioner’s total knee replacement and likely any temporary disability payments, and eventually permanent disability benefits with no contribution from the County.