Full-time, part-time, contractor and consultant – Washington employees can take on a variety of work relationships. And with the growing employment diversity the state has been enjoying, this range will continue to grow. One thing that manyWashington employees may not realize is that their employment classification also comes with different legal implications. Two of the more commonly conflated employment classifications have to do with full-time employees and independent contractors.
If you have been confused by this very topic, you are certainly not alone. When it comes to independent contractors, many of these employees do the same work as full-time employees, so what’s the difference? And why does it matter?
If an individual is classified as an independent contractor then he or she is actually not considered an employee of the employer. Rather, the independent contractor is considered to have a working relationship with a company that is typically assignment-based. Although there is no bright-line test for determining the difference between independent contractors and employees, independence is a good place to start the investigation. Simply put, the more independence an individual has the more likely a court would classify him or her as an independent contractor rather than a full-time employee.
Specific factors a court looks at to classify an individual’s work relationship include:
Control: Hours and rates are often different for independent contractors than they are for full-time employees often because they are working on a project rather than a daily employment routine. For instance, an independent contractor may simply be paid $1,000 to complete a given assignment whereas an employee gets paid hourly to come to work every day and complete given tasks.
Work set-up: Working from home, random office visits just for the assignment and completion or other non-traditional work arrangements are hallmarks of an independent contractor relationship.
Supervision: Unlike traditional employees, independent contractors are given substantially more independence because they are usually hired for their own expertise and do not need the supervision of a manager. Or so the logic goes.
Equipment: In addition to the work set-up, many independent contractors work on their own computers and other equipment rather than use company-provided equipment.
Many of your reading this may think that being an independent contractor seems ideal. And in many ways it is an arrangement that works out well for many Washington employees. But it does come at a price. Independent contractors are rarely given the benefits that full-time employees enjoy such as: healthcare, paid vacation, 401k options, etc. Misclassifying employees as independent contractors instead of employees is an all too common illegal tactic we see all the time. Companies hoping to avoid providing important benefits and also skip out on other legal duties owed to more traditional employees, simply misclassify the work arrangement and hope that no one notices. If you feel like this blog post is hitting a little too close to home, you should get in touch with an employment law attorney to help determine what you true classification should be and if there are any actions you can take.