Employee vs. Independent Contractor
Most Workers are Employees – Why it Matters to Long Island Workers
At Leeds Brown Law, P.C., our wage-hour attorneys help ensure that workers on Long Island, in New York City, and the surrounding metropolitan areas, receive all of the earnings to which they are legally entitled. In our decades of experience representing employees in unpaid wage and employment cases, we have come to understand the myriad of ways employees can get shortchanged when employers inadvertently or deliberately skirt their legal and financial obligations.
Misclassification of employees as independent contractors is one violation of labor laws we often see. The result of erroneous classification is that many workers do not receive the monetary and legal benefits of the employee-employer relationship. Because independent contractors do not enjoy many of the same entitlements and protections as employees, businesses are sometimes quick to misclassify workers to save money.
If you are an independent contractor working on Long Island or in New York City, it is possible that you are classified incorrectly. If so, you may be eligible to receive overtime and other earnings. Consider consulting with unpaid wage lawyers at Leeds Brown to find out if you are entitled to monetary damages due to being misclassified. Our experienced team takes a hands-on approach to all employment matters which means that you receive personal and professional representation. Leeds Brown can help determine if your employer has unlawfully withheld wages you deserve and if so, guide to through the process of securing compensation.
Employees Receive Overtime Pay and Minimum Wages- Independent Contractors Don’t
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) employees, with few exceptions, have these two important rights: The right to receive the legal minimum hourly wage and the right to overtime pay. Minimum wage under the FLSA is $7.25 per hour. New York has a higher minimum wage, depending on the region of the state and the type of job. When a state has a minimum wage that is higher than the federal one, the larger amount prevails.
Overtime is the amount you receive for hours you work over 40 in a workweek and is one-and-a-half times your regular hourly wage. Employees who do not fall into one of the professional, administrative or other narrow exemptions, must be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours.
Employees are workers who have an “employment relationship” with their employer. Overtime and minimum wage laws apply to employees. Independent contractors are NOT employees under the FLSA and are, therefore, not guaranteed either one. It is easy to call someone an independent contractor to avoid paying overtime. However, the US Department of Labor (DOL) explains what it means to truly be an independent contractor as opposed to an employee based on several factors. When faced with an unpaid wage or overtime claim, the DOL examines all of the factors to help decide if there is an employer-employee relationship or if the worker’s status is, in fact, independent.
Economic Realties Factors Determine Worker Classification
Whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee or depends on the nature of the relationship between the worker and the employer for which the work is being performed. The more the worker is economically dependent on the business of the employer, the more likely the worker is an employee. The more economically independent the worker is, the more likely he or she is an independent contractor. The DOL usually considers the following “economic realities” factors to help make a determination:
- The extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business.
- Whether the worker’s managerial skills affect his or her opportunity for profit and loss
- The relative investments in facilities and equipment by the worker and the employer
- The worker’s skill and initiative
- The permanency of the worker’s relationship with the employer
- The nature and degree of control by the employer
There are also some factors that do not play a significant part in the DOL’s analysis of the employment relationship. For example, the existence of a contract stating the worker is an independent contractor and not an employee is not a controlling document – because the actual nature of the relationship is what governs. The fact that a worker has an incorporated business and/or government license also is not an ultimate determining element nor is the fact that you work offsite or from home. According to the various Courts, the method and time of pay are also not determinative of the status of the working relationship.
Frequently Misclassified Employees
Over the years, thousands of individual employees or classes (groups of employees) have filed lawsuits against businesses to recover unpaid wages and overtime pay. No industry is immune from misclassification violations and the DOL and employment lawyers like those at Leeds Brown have helped secure millions of dollars owed to employees misclassified as independent contractors. Some examples of workers who may be incorrectly classified include:
- Ride-share drivers
- Commercial cleaners
- Oil and gas workers
- Cable workers
- Commercial transportation/truck drivers
- Construction industry workers
- Electrical workers
- Plumbing workers
- Gig or “pop up” business workers
- Home health care workers
- Contract employees
Employers who misclassify employees to cut down on costs are violating the law. Whether you work on Long Island or elsewhere in New York, you can hold your employer responsible if you are a misclassified worker. You may be missing out on valuable and legally required benefits such as:
- Minimum wage
- Overtime pay
- Unemployment insurance
- Workers compensation benefits
- Job protections like family and medical leave
- Protection from discrimination and retaliation
In addition to paying employees the money they rightfully earned during their period of misclassification, employers may also have to pay civil fines and face criminal penalties.
If you are an employee but the business you work for pays you like an independent contractor, call attorneys at Leeds Brown, representing New Yorkers and Long Islanders in unpaid overtime and unpaid wage cases, and find out if you have recourse. We can help you determine whether your employer owes you overtime or other unpaid wages and if you are entitled to receive benefits available to employees. We are available 24/7 so contact us today at 1-800-585-4658 for a free consultation.