Independent contractors are often referred to as freelancers. They include workers who typically consult for or do business with multiple clients simultaneously. Independent contractors generally will have flexibility in negotiating when, where, and how they work.
However, they enjoy considerably fewer benefits than employees hired full-time by a person, company, or government organization.
Independent contractors are not automatically entitled to:
- Overtime pay
- Paid meal breaks
- Minimum wage adherence
- Workers’ compensation
- Unemployment benefits
- Family and medical leave
- Right to sue in cases of unlawful discrimination or retaliation
If you are concerned that you may have been misclassified as an independent contractor, do not wait to call (805) 303-8115 or contact us online and request a free initial consultation with our employment law firm.
Unscrupulous employers often misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid having to provide state-mandated benefits and working conditions, including overtime, meal breaks, and workers’ compensation.
Our California independent contractor misclassification lawyers at Strauss & Strauss, APC can help determine whether you have been unlawfully misclassified and assist you in pursuing legal action against your employer. We can help recover lost overtime wages, unpaid meal breaks, “waiting time” penalties, and more.
Our track record speaks itself: Over the last decade, we have helped recover over $100 million for our clients across California. We are committed to fighting for your rights and will do everything possible to help secure the compensation that you deserve.
How Can I Tell If I Am Being Misclassified?
It can sometimes be challenging to determine whether you are an employee that has been misclassified as an independent contractor. In filing a lost wage claim or pursuing legal action, you will need to prove that you are an employee despite your employer’s claims that you are an independent contractor.
You are likely an employee and not an independent contractor if:
- You are paid by the hour. Independent contractors are typically paid a flat fee for a set amount of work. Generally, only employees should be paid on an hourly basis. Additionally, if you are paid hourly, your wage must meet the minimum requirements for your locality.
- You are required to come to a certain location on a regular work schedule. Outside of a standing meeting or two, independent contractors should not be required to stick to a fixed work schedule or come into an office. If you are working a 9 to 5, chances are that you are an employee in the eyes of the law.
- You are required to follow specific instructions in completing tasks. Employers can set best practices and expectations for their employees, but they generally will not have as much oversight or control over independent contractors. If you are required to complete tasks in a certain way, you are likely an employee.
- You receive substantial training in how to do your job. In most situations, independent contractors are hired to complete a specific task that they already have experience with. If you are given on-the-job training by your employer or other employees, you are not likely to be considered an independent contractor.
- You use company tools and resources when performing your job responsibilities. Independent contractors will typically bring their own tools to a job site. If you are expected to use the company’s resources, you are probably an employee.
- You are restricted from working for other businesses. In most cases, an employer cannot mandate that an independent contractor exclusively work for their firm. Employers can restrict their employees from doing work for other companies. If you face any employment restrictions, you are most likely an employee.
Even if you voluntarily filled out and submitted a 1099 form in lieu of a W-4 form, you are not necessarily an independent contractor. Similarly, any written contractors that define the working relationship as a firm hiring an independent contractor will not generally hold up in court if there is evidence that the worker has been misclassified.
Every working environment is different, and it may not be immediately obvious that you are being misclassified. If you are picking up on red flags and are not receiving basic benefits like overtime pay, it may be time to consult with legal professionals. Our California independent contractor misclassification attorneys can assess your situation and determine whether you have a case.
What Are My Options If I Have Been Misclassified?
There are cases where employers genuinely misunderstood classification rules and will unintentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors. In other situations, employers will intentionally exploit workers through misclassification, as they save money by not having to pay for basic employee benefits.
No matter your employer’s intentions, you must act if you believe that you have been misclassified. Being misclassified can result in extremely unfavorable tax implications and prevent you from collecting owed overtime pay and compensation for meal breaks. You can also find yourself in a vulnerable position should you need to collect unemployment benefits, seek workers’ compensation benefits, or take family or medical leave.
An employer cannot retaliate against you for filing a wage claim or reporting an independent contractor misclassification. Retaliatory acts include termination, demotion, a reduction of hours, or any other adverse action stemming from your exercising your rights under California law.
Misclassified employees have 3 years from the date of the most recent offense to pursue a civil lawsuit against their employers for cases involving unpaid wages. If your case involves a breach of a written employment contract, you have 4 years to initiate legal action. Should misclassification apply to multiple workers, you may choose to file a class-action lawsuit.
"Strauss & Strauss represented me in several cases against a former employer. They were taking on a Fortune 500 company that employed some of the world's biggest law firms. Michael Strauss and Andrew Ellison beat them every time."Stephen Craig
A successful lawsuit involving employee misclassification can help you recover the following types of compensation:
- Unpaid wages for hours paid at subminimum wage rates, plus interest
- Unpaid overtime wages, plus interest
- Unpaid wages for state-mandated meal breaks, plus interest
- Liquidated damages, plus interest, for cases where an employer acted in bad faith
- Reasonable legal fees
Our California independent contractor misclassification lawyers at Strauss & Strauss, APC can help you hold your employer accountable through legal action. We can assist you with filing lost wage claims with the California labor board and resolve issues involving unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits. Our team is familiar with how these cases are adjudicated and will aggressively fight to protect your rights as an employee.
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