You may be asking yourself why CM Punk is a topic on a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer blog? Simple, at KaplunMarx we handle more than just Philadelphia personal injury cases, we represent business clients and employees relating to workplace issues, and employment law – just like the workplace issue that CM Punk has discussed on the Colt Cabana Art of Wrestling podcast. This was the first time CM Punk has discussed the details surrounding his leaving the WWE in January, 2014 – many of which related to a “toxic” work environment among other issues.

Independent Contractor vs. Employee

The WWE classifies (the majority) of its on-screen talent, including CM Punk,  as independent contractors and not employees. Whats is the difference? The major difference is control that the employer may have over the individual, in considering the classification Courts can use the “economics reality test” looking at:

  • Control over the person by the employer,
  • Who supplies the worker with equipment, materials and tools,
  • Who decides on the workers schedule and hours of employment,
  • Is the work is temporary or permanent,
  • Is the nature of the work integral to the business.

Examining this list, it would seem that wrestlers like CM Punk, were in fact, employees – but the WWE’s released a statement explaining why they consider otherwise: “WWE talent are highly skilled professionals who only perform and promote their appearances; unlike employees, they do not have any corporate responsibilities or duties, and thus are independent contractors. As independent contractors, WWE talent are able to negotiate all aspects of their contracts including length of agreement, compensation, time off, disability provisions and other benefits that would not be afforded to an employee.” (see // Surprisingly this disparity has not, at this point, been challenged in Court and the WWE continues to classify on-screen talent as such.

Why would the WWE, or any business for that matter, want to have independent contractors rather than employees? The answer is simple – money. There are many added costs with having employees, including, but not limited to workers compensation insurance, social security taxes, health insurance concerns among others. The dollar amount saved for the WWE is huge.

How did the Employment Designation Affect CM Punk?

CM Punk states in his interview that he was “forced” to work with various injuries, a big part of why he eventually left the WWE; forcing someone to work injured is not allowed, especially when that injury was a workplace injury. This goes back to whether the distinction of independent contractor vs employee comes into play. If you are considered an employee, you will be covered under workers compensation, but that is not the case for wrestlers in the WWE. In my estimation the WWE has a liability nightmare on its hands, relating to concussions protocol and CTE along the lines that the NFL is facing – the designation of its wrestlers will just add to the possible liability.

What Does CM Punk and the WWE Have to do With My Business?

The distinction of independent contractor vs employee takes place in every business, big like the WWE or a small mom and pop hoagie shop in Philadelphia. Liability for misclassification of employees can cost a business a great deal of money, and sometimes even one of its best employees.
If you are an employer or an employee with a business law issue contact the lawyers at KaplunMarx – we can help!

UPDATE: WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon Apologizes to CM Punk on the Stone Cold Steve Austin Podcast.

WWE Chairman Vince McMahon apologies to CM Punk, specifically, Mr. McMahon apologized to CM Punk regarding his receipt of his severance paperwork on his wedding date, while this is outside the scope of the purposes of this blog post, but interesting none-the-less.