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The economy is changing in fundamental ways. More and more people are accepting employment with companies not in the guise of employees, but as independent contractors, which confers different benefits for both worker and employer. However, one of the benefits that an independent contractor does not have is the right to workers’ compensation. There are rare exceptions to this rule, but most of the time, a contractor will have to pursue a different avenue to obtain compensation for work-related injuries.
Distinguishing An Independent Contractor
Florida’s employment statute defines an employee fairly broadly, including anyone who receives regular payment from an employer while engaged in any kind of work or service on that employer’s behalf. Employees are entitled to the benefits that are broadly offered by an employer, including minimum wage, anti-discrimination protections and unemployment insurance. Independent contractors are not, and as such, the distinction is important.
The same statute explicitly excludes “independent contractor[s] who [are] not engaged in the construction industry.” Independent contractors in the construction industry are included in Florida’s definition of employee because unlike most contractors, construction bosses have significant control over what a construction contractor does. Florida’s methods of distinguishing most independent contractors from regular employees can be somewhat complex.
There are, however, consequences for misclassifying employees as independent contractors, especially if done deliberately to avoid paying benefits. Criminal charges may result if the misclassification was intentional, though tax liability is the most common consequence for businesses. While mistakes do happen, it is not uncommon that employers act in bad faith to save money. The state uses a ten-factor test to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or not, with each contributing equally. Some of the criteria include:
Whether or not the parties believed that they were creating an employer/employee relationship;
Whether or not the work done by the person in question is part of the employer’s regular business;
Whether or not the employer provides the relevant tools to do the job;
How much skill is involved in the job;
How much direct supervision the worker will have while on the job; and
Whether the employer is a business or an individual.
If you have been misclassified, you have the right to bring suit against your employer. Most of the time, an employment law attorney will be able to help you, though an experienced attorney with tax law knowledge may also be able to assist. If you have been injured, however, a personal injury attorney will have better tools to help you seek redress.
Seek Experienced Assistance
If you have been the victim of misclassification or have questions about independent contractors’ benefits, it is in your best interests to speak with a skilled legal professional.