November 28, 2016

Maine Workers' Comp Alert: Appellate Division Addresses Distinction Between Employees Covered Under the Act and Volunteers

Workers' Compensation Alert

In Huff v. Regional Transportation Program the Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division affirmed a decision finding that an individual was not an employee but, rather, a volunteer. The individual was a driver for a nonprofit entity that provided transportation services to the elderly. The Appellate Division rejected the individual’s contention that the $0.41 per mile that the driver received as reimbursement constituted remuneration. The Appellate Division also rejected the argument that the $0.41 reimbursement rate is an IRS rate specifically set for employees, noting that provisions of the tax code do not dictate interpretations of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Because the individual’s services were without remuneration, he was not an employee under the Act. The Appellate Division found this case distinguishable from Harriman v. EMK, 1998 Me. Super. LEXIS 58 (Mar. 13, 1998) in which a volunteer, in exchange for services, was allowed to ski at any time without charge, received free beverages and was able to earn free ski passes for friends based on number of hours she worked. The key difference was that in Harriman, that individual did not provide services on a purely gratuitous basis, but exchanged her services for valuable remuneration that was not fixed.