While employed by a temporary staffing agency, Stevenson worked on assignment for Waste Management. After being injured on the job, Stevenson collected worker’s compensation through the temporary staffing agency and then sued Waste Management, saying its negligence caused the injury, which was not fully compensated by worker’s compensation.
Worker Cannot Sue the Employer
In Waste Management v Stevenson, the Supreme Court of Texas dismissed Stevenson’s suit because Waste Management was Stevenson’s employer as defined in the Texas Worker’s Compensation Act (TWCA), which forbids injury suits against employers (except in rare circumstances not applicable in this case).
Contract Language Not Controlling
The temporary staffing agency provided workers through a contract, which stated they “shall be independent contractors” and “shall not be employees” of Waste Management. However, the Court ruled Waste Management was the employer under TWCA because it could “control the progress, details, and methods” of Stevenson while he worked for Waste Management, despite the contract’s language.
Texas Law May Be Inconsistent
Given this ruling, would Waste Management be vicariously liable had Stevenson’s negligence injured a third party? Not necessarily, according to the Court. Texas law’s analysis of employment status under TWCA “can diverge” from that used to determine vicarious liability. Despite the same facts, a TWCA case could reach a different determination than a case where a third party alleges vicarious liability due to acts of that worker.
Concurrence Says Texas Law Should Be Consistent
One judge filed a concurring opinion, which agreed with the result but said Texas law should have the same analysis of who is an employee, regardless of the nature of the underlying case.
For the Court’s opinion https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1452152/190282.pdf and for the concurring opinion https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1452161/190282c.pdf