The relationship between employers and employees comes with many legal complexities, and there are times when employers can improperly curtail employees' rights, either by accident or design. One common place where this sort of issue arises is through employee misclassification, the practice of designating an employee as an independent contractor. Although the decision of which of those classes a worker falls into is one for a court to decide, many employers choose to make an improper classification in order to avoid having to provide things like overtime pay or workers' compensation insurance.
What Misclassification Is
There are two classes of worker for many employment law purposes: employees and independent contractors. Generally speaking, the difference between the two is the amount of control that an employer exercises over them. The more control, the more likely the court is to find that an employer/employee relationship exists. However, there are actually a variety of factors that courts look to, including:
- - How much direction the employer gives in how to complete tasks;
- - The type of evaluation system the worker operates under;
- - Whether the business trains the worker;
- - Whether the business reimburses the worker's expenses;
- - Whether the worker can work for other employers;
- - How the worker is paid;
- - Whether the relationship is intended to be long-term; and
- - Whether the worker's services are a key part of the business.
Examples can often be helpful to understand whether someone qualifies as an employee or an independent contractor. For instance, a secretary working at an office for years probably qualifies as an employee because of the high amount of control the employer would retain, as well as the other factors. Conversely, an IT worker hired to set up the company's network would probably be an independent contractor because they are going about the work in their own way, and the job's duration is limited.
Why It Matters
This distinction matters because it affects the responsibility that an employer has towards the worker. Many of the legal protections afforded to workers are only given to people in an employer/employee relationship. For instance, many employers misclassify their employees in order to avoid paying overtime pay or to avoid providing workers' compensation insurance. They can also use misclassification to shift tax burdens onto the worker, by avoiding things like unemployment insurance and Social Security taxes.
A worker's classification is a matter for courts to decide, and how an employer has elected to treat the worker is immaterial. If you believe that you have been misclassified and are losing access to benefits like overtime pay or workers' compensation benefits, contact an experienced Illinois employment lawyer today. Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves workers in many northwest suburban towns, such as Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Inverness, Deer Park, and Arlington Heights.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.