Sometimes employers want it both ways. They want the convenience of having an employee they can depend on regularly, without the risk of having to pay unemployment or workers compensation, or risk wrongful termination suits. These employers will sometimes tell employees they can be “independent contractors.” Then they treat them as employees – telling them when to show up, exactly how and when to do their jobs. This can result in what’s called a “misclassification” lawsuit.
In some industries, people expect to be independent contractors. It’s not unusual for a hairstylist to work at a salon, pay booth rent, and be subject to certain rules, such as what products they use or how clean their area has to be kept. In the trucking industry, sometimes a guy who owns his own truck will be doing the same job as someone who is an employee.
But under California law, what really matters is what you do, and how much the boss has control over you, even if you’ve signed an agreement to be an independent contractor and like the idea of having your own business. Usually a business owner has the ability to decide when and how to complete their job, and the ability to turn down jobs. For example, a hairstylist can usually decide whether or not he or she is willing to do chemical treatments, permanents or certain styles. Essentially, they’re operating their own miniature business inside another business. A painter who has their own business can pick which houses he or she wants to paint, and avoid painting projects that they prefer not to do. The degree of control is what’s important.
Employees are also entitled to meal and rest periods, overtime pay, and other protections that independent contractors don’t have, like the ability to bring wrongful termination suits.