Cosmetologist Wins Injury Benefit on Appeal

Times Staff Writer

A cosmetologist who claims he injured his back on the job is entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits, a state appellate court in Santa Ana ruled Tuesday.

The 4th District Court of Appeal rejected a Huntington Beach beauty parlor owner's contention that Kenneth Truesdale was an independent contractor and therefore exempt from workers' compensation benefits.

The decision could disrupt operations at many shops where barbers and cosmetologists rent chairs, but otherwise work as independent professionals, an attorney for the beauty parlor said.

Truesdale's lawyer, Ronald W. Winters, said the decision means that a shop owner may not "contract away" the rights of employees. Truesdale had claimed he sustained serious back injuries while lifting a five-gallon jug of water at the beauty shop in 1983.

Tuesday's ruling overturned a decision by the state Workers Compensation Appeals Board, which had denied eligibility to Truesdale, one of 185,000 cosmetologists licensed by the State of California. Truesdale's 1982 employment contract with Spectrum Plus, a Huntington Beach beauty parlor, stated that he was an independent contractor.

Court Rejects Contract

But the appellate court, finding that the shop owner controlled the terms and conditions of Truesdale's employment, rejected that contract.

"Truesdale was an independent contractor in name only," according to the opinion. The "objective evidence" established that Truesdale was an employee, the court ruled.

"I think this will have a considerable impact," said Alvin J. Ufkes, lawyer for the beauty parlor. "They (the shop owners) are going to have to buy workers' compensation insurance, they're going to have to start keeping Social Security and withholding taxes."

Harold P. Jones, executive officer of the state Board of Cosmetology, said it is "common practice" in the business for independent professionals to rent space in a shop and contribute toward overhead.

Generally, if an employer has the right to direct and control a worker's performance, both as to the results and the means, the worker is considered to be entitled to workers' compensation. An independent contractor, by contrast, has control over the means and methods of accomplishing the results imposed by the employer.

The case was sent back to state workers' compensation officials to determine the benefits Truesdale will receive.

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