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Understanding how California views independent contractors

There can be confusion when it comes to classifying employees in California. If an employer views the employee as an independent contractor, it might be because the employer is trying to avoid giving the proper benefits and adhering to state wage laws. Workers should understand the difference between an employee and an independent contractor so that they know what their employment rights are.

Under California law, there is not a specific point at which contractors will be considered employees. If the employer is exercising control over the individual’s work directly or indirectly, he or she will be viewed as an employee. There are certain other factors that will be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not a person is an employee or a contractor.

The following will be part of the determination: if the person is performing a service in an occupation or business that is different from that of the employer; if the work that is being done is not part of the business that the employer is involved in; if the individual is supplying his or her own workplace, tools and instruments; if the individual has invested in the equipment or materials to perform the required tasks; if the individual has to have a specific skill for the job; and if the individual’s work is generally done by a specialist and does not require supervision.

Other factors that help to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor are: whether the individual has the opportunity to make a profit or loss based on his or her own management skills; if the time for the services being performed is limited to the reason the person was hired; if the working relationship between the parties is linked to the time that was set aside for the job to be done; if the way the person is paid is based on time or project; and if the parties are not under the impression that there is an employer-employee agreement.

If there is a disagreement as to the nature of the relationship and a subsequent failure on the part of the employer to provide what is required under wage laws, it could be the basis for a legal filing to determine employee classification. Speaking to an attorney who is experienced in these types of situations can help in deciding whether or not to file a case.

Source: dir.ca.gov, “Independent Contractors,” accessed on Aug. 30, 2016


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