Industrial Claim Appeals Office v. Softrock Geological Services, Inc.Annotate this Case
The issue this case presented to the Colorado Supreme Court was whether an individual was an independent contractor as opposed to an employee for unemployment tax liability purposes. Waterman Ormsby was a geologist contracted to work on a project basis for Softrock Geological Services, Inc. In 2011, the Division of Employment and Training audited Softrock and issued a notice of liability on grounds that Softrock should have treated Ormsby as an employee for Colorado Employment Security Act (CESA) purposes. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeals that whether an individual was "customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business related to the service performed" was a question of fact. Whether the individual worked for another was not dispositive of whether the individual was engaged in an independent business. The Court disagreed with the appellate court, however, that whether an individual was engaged in an independent trade or business could be determined by applying a nine-factor test to create a presumption of an independent contractor relationship under statute. Instead, the Court held that the determination must be based on a totality of the circumstances test that evaluates the dynamics of the relationship between the putative employee and the employer. The factors listed in the statute might be relevant to that determination, but the statute does not provide an exhaustive list of factors to be considered. The case was remanded to the appellate court to return the case to the Industrial Claim Appeals office for further proceedings.