Covey v. Home Medical Associates, LLC
As the Compensation Review Board explained in its 1999 decision in Johnson v. Braun Moving, Inc., "the key factor in establishing employee status is not the label applied by the parties in a memorialized agreement; it is the putative employer's right to control the means and methods used by the person whose status is implicated." Bonnie Covey, widow of William Covey, M.D., filed a timely claim for survivor's benefits under C.G.S. §31-306. When Dr. Covey died, he was, inter alia, the medical director of the Jewish Home for the Elderly. Under his agreement with the home, Dr. Covey was required to be physically present at the home for 40 hours per week and available for medical and administrative emergencies. He was required to perform administrative duties for six hours per week and was prohibited from engaging in outside activities without written approval. For his administrative services, Covey was paid $30,000 annually plus benefits, including health and dental insurance. The home provided office space and staff for Dr. Covey's private medical practice, Home Medical Associates, at cost and supplied office equipment. The agreement stated that Dr. Covey was an independent contractor and not an employee of the home. The trial commissioner concluded that for his position as medical director, Dr. Covey was an employee of the home and covered by the Workers' Compensation Act. The trier issued supplemental decisions, finding the home liable as principal employer under C.G.S. §31-291. The home and its insurer, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, appealed. Finding no error, the Compensation Review Board affirmed the decisions. Various factors, including the medical director agreement and method by which Dr. Covey filed his tax returns, could have supported a finding of no employer-employee relationship. However, the record provided a satisfactory basis for the conclusion that the home retained a sufficient measure of control over Dr. Covey's duties as medical director such that the existence of an employer-employee relationship reasonably could be inferred. For the principal employer liability finding, various determinations were made, including that the home's trade or business was the provision of medical care and Dr. Covey's duties in his various guises were primarily directed to that end.