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Chores + Free Rent = Employment? Not in MY WC!

Happy Wednesday, dear readers!

Your humble blogger refers his beloved readers to that mental filing cabinet we all keep.  The one with the funny stories, the many reasons why we despise our bitter enemies, and, of course, our examples of “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Such is the case in the matter of Garcia v. Whitney, a recent matter denied review by the Court of Appeal.

Defendant Whitney allowed applicant Garcia to stay at her home rent-free.  At some point, defendant Witney asked Garcia to help out around the house.  He eventually cut his finger with a power saw and filed a claim.

The thrust of the argument?  Once applicant started helping out around the house, he was performing services for another, as contemplated by Labor Code section 3357, and thus became an employee.

The WCJ was not amused, and summarized applicant’s argument, thus: “anyone doing anything for anybody else is an employee.”  Based on the WCJ’s report and recommendation, which the WCAB commissioners adopted and incorporated in denying applicant’s petition for reconsideration, there was no evidence to support the contention that the defendants ever threatened to stop providing housing rent free if applicant were not to help out around the house.

The WCJ ultimately held, in finding that applicant was to take nothing by way of his claim, that unless there was some evidence to support the agreement to have an actual exchange of “free” rent for services, a finding of employment could not be supported.

Speaking personally, as a humble blogger, the suggestion that a every interaction is one that creates an employment relationship is a bit dizzying.  Am I suddenly an employee by holding the door for a person in a building?  What if that person were to then hold the elevator door for me – are we now employing each other?  How do I fire the elevator-holder for poor performance?

But, again, few maxims endure with so much vitality and unwavering determination as the one we keep in the back of our minds: no good deed goes unpunished.

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