STANDARD OIL OF CONNECTICUT, INC. v. ADMINISTRATOR, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION ACT, SC 19493

Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport

 

       Employment; Whether Trial Court Properly Deferred to Agency’s Factual Findings Where Plaintiff Filed Timely Motion to Correct; Whether Court Properly Determined that Installers were Employees and not Independent Contractors under ABC Test.  The plaintiff provides home heating and cooling systems and alarm systems to residential customers and engages the services of installers and technicians (installers) to install and service those systems.  While the plaintiff claimed that the installers were independent contractors, the defendant determined that they were the plaintiff’s employees and therefore that the plaintiff was liable for unemployment compensation contributions.  An appeal referee upheld that decision, and the Employment Security Board of Review (board) upheld the referee.  In determining that the relationship between the plaintiff and the installers constituted “employment,” the board applied the “ABC test” codified in General Statutes § 31-222 (a) (1) (B) (ii).  Under that test, service performed by an individual will be deemed employment unless the party claiming an exception shows that “[A] such individual has been and will continue to be free from control and direction in connection with the performance of such service . . . ; and [B] such service is performed either outside the usual course of the business for which the service is performed or is performed outside of all the places of business of the enterprise for which the service is performed; and [C] such individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed . . . .”  The board determined that, while part C of the test was satisfied here, the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that its relationship with the installers satisfied parts A and B.  The plaintiff appealed to the trial court, and the trial court dismissed the appeal, finding that there was substantial evidence supporting the determinations that the plaintiff did not satisfy parts A and B.  As to part A, the court found that the plaintiff had the right to control the means and the methods of the installers’ work.  As to the first part of part B, the court noted that, while the majority of the plaintiff’s business is in the provision of oil and of services on installed systems, the installers’ services were nonetheless within the plaintiff’s course of business because the plaintiff advertises installation, holds itself out as providing installation, and schedules the installers.  As to the second part of part B, the court ruled that customers’ homes qualify as the plaintiff’s “places of business” because the plaintiff will continue to provide services at the homes in the form of, among other things, oil delivery and system maintenance.  The plaintiff appeals, claiming the trial court wrongly deferred to the board’s factual findings where it had filed a timely motion to correct those findings.  The plaintiff also claims that it satisfied all three parts of the ABC test.  As to part A, the plaintiff argues that it established that the installers are free from its direction and control.  The plaintiff also contends that the trial court misinterpreted the “places of business” component of part B of the test and asserts that the site of service does not become an enterprise’s “place of business” where, as here, the enterprise is not physically present or does not supervise and control the work performed at the site.