Informal Arrangement Regarding Boarding of Horses Did not Create Employer-Employee Relationship

An oral agreement whereby one party (Cornett) was allowed to board horses on property owned by another (Schumacher) and pay the latter a portion of the boarding fees received as rent for the stables did not create an employee-employer relationship, agreed an Ohio appellate court in Cornett v. Administrator, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Comp., 2014-Ohio-3559, 2014 Ohio App. LEXIS 3500 (Aug. 18, 2014). That Cornett was required to purchase her hay from Schumaker, was required to clean the stalls regularly and was further required to be on the premises when the farrier or veterinarian would come did not change the arrangement into one for hire, indicated the court. The court accordingly affirmed a decision of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation that Cornett was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained when she was trampled by a horse on the ground that she was not Schumaker’s employee.

The court distinguished the instant case from an earlier decision, Mendoza v. Bishop, 2005-Ohio-238, 2013 Ohio App. LEXIS 994 (Mar. 25, 2013), in which a farm worker worked on a horse farm at least eight hours a day for six years (his job was to feed and water the horses twice daily and to clean the stalls every day except on weekends), lived on the premises in a rent-free apartment, was paid a weekly salary, and never received a W-2 form because he never obtained a green card. The court there held that the worker was an employee of the ranch owner, and not an independent contractor, for purposes of the ranch owner’s insurance policies.

Here the evidence showed that Cornett never received a salary or wages from Schumaker nor compensation in the form of free services or free lodging for her work on the barn. Instead, Cornett directly contracted with horse owners, charged them $250 and was paid directly by her boarders. In turn, she paid Schumaker $100 per occupied stall per month to rent stalls for the horses she boarded. Further, as the magistrate and the trial court properly found, Schumaker did not withhold any taxes, provide Cornett with a W-2 or 1099 tax form, or offer retirement savings or contributions. Schumaker also did not provide Cornett with health insurance, sick time or paid leave, or any other employment benefits. The court finally pointed out that the ad on Craigslist was for a “horse barn for rent,” and not to hire a barn manager. There was no evidence of a contract for hire, express or implied, oral or written.

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