A casual worker is a person who works for a company on a temporary basis, as opposed to a permanent or regular basis. Many employers in Pennsylvania try to reduce overhead costs and other expenses by classifying workers as “casual,” but oftentimes, such as classification is wrong — in both a legal and a moral sense. Legally speaking, the distinction is wrong because a worker does not fit the legal definition of a casual worker. Morally speaking it is wrong because classifying a valuable team member as a casual employee denies that person basic rights. One such right is the right to workers’ compensation.

According to FindLaw, Pennsylvania law requires employers to provide workers’ compensation to all employees for injuries sustained on the job. Employers must meet this obligation without question, meaning the injured party does not have the burden of proof to show that the employer’s negligence caused his or her injury in some way. In exchange for this ease of recovery, the law bans employees from suing their employers for compensation.

The state of Pennsylvania considers any person who performs a service for another in exchange for something of value an employee. However, state law does provide for some exceptions. One such exception is a casual worker. Casual workers are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Unfortunately, neither federal nor state laws provide a legal definition for a casual worker. However, several publications provide ways for employers and workers alike to differentiate between a regular employee and a casual one. The Conversation is one such publication.

Per The Conversation, employment may be casual if the employer does not make any advance commitment to ongoing employment or to the amount of work he or she will ask a worker to perform. The state may also consider a worker a casual one if he or she is not entitled to typical employment benefits such as paid leave, severance pay or health insurance.

Unfortunately, the nature of a “casual employee” will always be ambiguous. The best way to avoid ambiguity is for the worker to self-identify.