A labor question that has recently been brought to light by employees of Uber, Postmates, and other similar tech-based services is: Which workers qualify as full-on employees, and which are independent contractors? This debate is important because, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, there are parameters that define workers as employees, and that status provides certain rights to those workers. Conversely, independent contractors are not entitled to benefits such as overtime pay and workers’ compensation.
The debate has centered on companies like those listed above because their workers make their own schedules, operate without direct oversight from the businesses, and in some ways, function similarly to independent contractors. However, workers argue that this classification is unfair because they are actual employees, and should receive the benefits that entails. Many companies attempt to misclassify employees as independent contractors to deny their workers those benefits and save money.
So, how do you know if you are truly an employee, or an independent contractor? And how do you protect your rights if you are misclassified? There is some overlap between the responsibilities of the two roles, but knowing what does not make you an independent contractor can help you identify instances of misclassification.
Independence ≠ Independent Contractor
As is the case in the Uber/Postmates/etc. debate, independence in a role often gets confused for working as an independent contractor. This is not always the case. Independent contractors may work for an employer, but that work is often temporary or does not meet other conditions of full employment. Conversely, a worker may be fully employed by a business, but enjoy the benefits of working remotely or creating their own hours. Maintaining independence in the administration of your own role does not necessarily qualify you as an independent contractor.
You Can Federally be Considered an Employee, Even if State Laws Say Otherwise
The Fair Labor Standards Act identifies an independent contractor as a worker who is temporarily employed, paid per project, provides their own materials, or is otherwise not fully employed by a company.
The standard idea of an independent contractor is generally uniform, but there are some variances throughout state laws. Any state conditions that technically qualify you as an independent contractor do not exclude you from the federal benefits you are entitled to.
Agreements with Your Employer do not Classify You as an Independent Contractor
In an attempt to misclassify a worker, an employer may ask their employee to sign an agreement that states they are an independent contractor. If you are granted full employee benefits under the FLSA, an employer agreement does not prohibit you from receiving those benefits.
The team of experienced attorneys at Donati Law, PLLC are focused on protecting employee rights. If you were misclassified as an independent contractor and denied benefits by your employer, contact us to discuss your case.Send us a message or call (901) 209-5500 to schedule a free consultation with our lawyers.