As more companies look for ways to save money, many choose to hire independent contractors instead of full-time employees. Independent contractors are paid by businesses for providing services -- like consulting or work on temporary projects -- but they are not considered employees. Some independent contractors can stay on a contract for years and years, and the line between contractors and employees can blur. However, special legal and tax considerations should be kept in mind by independent contractors and people who are self-employed, so it is important to keep the distinction in mind. Click on the links below to learn more.
Independent Contractors vs. Employees
In the current job market employers are increasingly reliant upon workers that are hired on a temporary or periodic basis. These workers are often not technically "employees" but are rather termed "independent contractors." Many of the rights and obligations that exist between employers and employees do not apply to employers and contractors or consultants. Whether a worker is classified as an employee or a contractor may impact their claims to employment benefits, their tax obligations, and the liability of the employer for the worker's actions.
Whether a worker is an employee or a contractor depends on the conditions of their employment. Courts frequently find that workers called contractors are, in fact, employees. As such it is important that a worker in dispute with their employer make their own examination of the terms of conditions of employment to determine whether they are a contractor or an employee, regardless of the terminology employed by the employer. A convenient chart at the link below lists common distinctions between employees and contractors.
Part Time, Temporary, and Seasonal Employees
There are significant differences between different kinds of temporary or partial employment situations. Part-time employees, for example, are subject to many of the same rules as employees, but may not be eligible for company benefits unless they are required under state law or company policy. Federal laws treat part-time employees the same as full-time employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations concerning minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor. Most states define part-time workers as those who work less than 35 hours a week compared to full-time employees who work 40 hours or more.
Temporary employees, or temps, are hired to cover the short-term needs of a business, either directly or through a staffing agency. Companies that hire temporary employees may be subject to federal discrimination or harassment challenges. Other regulations such as the Family Medical Leave Act may be implicated if the company exercises some control over the selection, hiring, and working conditions of the employee, which could establish an employer/employee relationship even if the temp worker is technically employed by a staffing agency.
Seasonal employees are hired to help during a specific season, typically the Christmas season. Federal and state laws protecting employees frequently apply to seasonal workers, regardless of the temporary nature of their employment. This isn't always the case, however, and depending on the jurisdiction an analysis of the employment context may be required to determine the nature of the relationship between the parties.
When there is a conflict in the workplace it can be valuable to consult with employment law attorney to determine your rights. Courts have been increasingly strict with employers' contract and temp-worker schemes. Some courts have deemed workers to be employees despite having been called a contractor or temp worker in the employment contract. The advice of an experienced attorney can help you determine whether your employer has violated rights and whether you have standing to sue as a result.