Are you Misclassified as an Independent Contractor? Understanding Worker Classification in Florida

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In the age of the gig economy (freelance work), it can be more difficult for workers to know if they should be classified as an “employee” or as an “independent contractor.” This is far more than a semantic difference — employees have certain rights under federal and state labor laws that independent contractors do not.

Contrary to what some people believe, neither employees nor employers can simply ‘decide’ or ‘agree’ that a worker should be labelled as an independent contractor for the purposes of state or federal law. Classification depends entirely on a worker’s actual relationship to their employer. You need to be sure that you are properly classified. Here, our Florida employment lawyers provide an overview of why worker classification matters.

Know Your Employment Status: Why Worker Misclassification Matters and What is At Stake

  1. Employees May Be Covered Under Employment Discrimination Laws, Independent Contractors Are Not

As noted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), only people who are actually employed are covered by employment discrimination laws. This means that independent contractors do not have the ability to make an employment discrimination claim. A worker who has been misclassified as an independent contractor may have been improperly denied protection under state or federal workplace discrimination laws.

  1. Employees Can Recover Unemployment Benefits When They Are Let Go From Their Job, Independent Contractors Cannot

Only employees are eligible to file for unemployment benefits when they are let go from a position. The Florida Department of Revenue instructs all companies to review their employer-employee relationships to ensure that all of their workers are properly classified. Misclassified workers who have been let go from their job need to take immediate action to ensure that they can get access to the unemployment benefits that they are rightfully owed.

  1. Employees Are Entitled to Minimum Wage and Overtime Payments, Independent Contractors Are Not

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires businesses to pay employees — but not independent contractors — a minimum wage and overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a given work-week. However, independent contractors are paid to perform specific tasks — their working hours, among other things, should not be directly controlled by the employer. For this reason, independent contractors are not entitled to receive a minimum wage nor are they entitled to receive overtime compensation. If you have been misclassified as an independent contractor and made to work overtime, you may be entitled to recover monetary compensation for unpaid labor.

  1. Employees May Be Entitled to Medical Leave, Independent Contractors May Not

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants eligible employees access to unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family/medical emergencies. Only certain employers and employees are covered under the FMLA. Independent contractors are not covered by state or federal medical leave laws. If you are an employee who has been improperly classified as an independent contractor, you may have been denied family and medical leave benefits that are rightfully yours.

Think You Might Be Misclassified?  Speak to a Florida Employment Lawyer Today

If you believe that you were improperly classified as an independent contractor by your employer, you should speak to an experienced Florida attorney immediately. You may be entitled to financial compensation. Worker misclassification can result in a significant monetary award for a wrongfully classified employee, including potential entitlement to unpaid wages (like minimum wage, overtime), and as well attorney’s fees and other penalties.

Resources: 

dol.gov/whd/fmla/

floridarevenue.com/taxes/taxesfees/Pages/rt_employee.aspx

eeoc.gov/employers/coverage.cfm

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