Is Your Employer Misclassifying You as an Independent Contractor?
How to Tell—and What To Do About It
Independent contractors and full-time employees are treated very differently under the law, and how you’re classified can impact all areas of your life.
Employees are protected by a suite of labor, minimum wage and anti-discrimination laws, whereas independent contractors are not entitled to that protection. Not to mention, independent contractors are responsible for estimating and withholding their own taxes, buying their own insurance, and even purchasing their own equipment—expenses and tasks that are often taken care of if you’re an employee.
Of course, being an employee also has its price—in terms of less independence from the employer. Some people choose to be independent contractors in order to maintain that independence.
However, what if you didn’t choose to be an independent contractor—but your employer is telling you that you are one anyway? Employers get a lot of benefits out of classing full-time employees as independent contractors—you’re a less expensive worker, with fewer rights.
But what is and isn’t a full-time employee or an independent contractor shouldn’t be up to your employer. There are legal definitions for both terms. Here are some ways to tell if you’re being erroneously misclassified as an independent contractor.
You Only Work for the One Employer.
An independent contractor is a business owner, and as such, they can take on any number of clients. While some independent contractors choose to work for only one company, or just one at a time, if you’re truly independent that should be your choice—not a demand made by your employer.
If your employer expects you to work only for them—particularly if they make you sign a contract to that effect—and is still calling you an independent contractor, that may be a misclassification.
Your Working Agreement Has No End-Date and Is Non-Specific.
Most of the time, an independent contractor is hired to do a specific job, the requirements of which are detailed in a contract. When the job ends, so does your working relationship with that employer—unless they hire you again.
It’s true that some independent contractors may be put “on retainer,” which involves handling whatever work comes up, but the terms of those contracts should be largely under your control. If your working agreement has no end date, no defined job, and was entirely dictated by the employer, you may in fact be a full-time employee.
You Get a Regular Paycheck Without Submitting Invoices.
Most independent contractors—including those on retainer for long, indefinite periods—submit an invoice to their employer detailing what work they’ve done and what the bill is. Your employer pays you, and you are responsible for deducting and paying your own taxes.
If you’re a full-time employee, your employer just sends you a paycheck after deducting taxes. If that’s what’s happening with you, and your employer is still insisting you’re an independent contractor, it’s quite possible you’re being misclassified.
Your Employer Has Control Over Your Work Day.
Independent contractors are just that—independent. While some contract jobs may require you to work at the employer’s location, you should be the one determining when your work day starts and ends, and what work you do while you’re there. You’re the professional, after all.
If your employer is dictating all that for you, then you’re not really independent. Your employer shouldn’t be telling you how to do your job, or asking you to be present for regular shifts at a location when it’s not necessary to get the job done.
Your Employer Provides the Equipment.
Most independent contractors bring their own tools and equipment to the worksite—they don’t get that equipment from an employer. If your employer is providing you with the tools you need to perform your job duties—including cell phones and laptops—that’s a sign you’re being misclassified.
There Are Full-Time Employees Doing the Same Job.
Most of the time, employers hire an independent contractor to do a specialized job that’s different from what their full-time employees do.
Look around at your workplace—do you see other people doing the same job as you who are classified as full time? Is there any difference in expectations around how they work, the equipment being provided, and the control they have over their own time and job duties?
If there’s no difference between you and them except how you’re classified, you may be getting misclassified.
What To Do if Your Employer Is Misclassifying You
Not all of these are automatically signs that you’re being misclassified. It’s definitely possible for some independent contractors to work for one client at a time, for example, or to regularly travel to employer worksites. It depends on the type of work you do.
But if any of these apply to you—especially more than one—there’s a strong chance you may be a victim of misclassification. If you have any doubt at all, you should speak with an employment lawyer.
We’ve helped thousands of misclassified clients in getting restitution for what they were owed. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at email@example.com for a free, confidential consultation today.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.