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Court rules independent workers retain certain rights

Independent contractors in New York might start to enjoy increased protection based on a federal court ruling involving a dancer in a strip club. In that case, the dancer sued to be considered an employee rather than an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The strip club then countersued, claiming a breach of contract, and said that the dancer had to pay it dance fees she had collected from customers.

At issue was a contract the dancer had signed that included a now-common clause for independent contractors. The clause states that workers who seek FLSA protection have to pay money back to the employer. Cable installers and truck and limousine drivers are among the types of workers who are frequently required to agree to such indemnification clauses, but the woman's lawyer described their inclusion as having a 'chilling effect" on the rights of workers.

The court ruled that the woman did not waive her rights despite signing the contract with the Las Vegas strip club because a person cannot give up these type of statutory rights. Furthermore, the court said that the strip club was unable to prove that it suffered damages because of her claim. The employee can now pursue a FLSA retaliation claim. However, the employer may also be able to amend its complaint and try to seek the fees again.

Often, independent contractors might assume that they do not have certain employment rights. However, if they are unhappy with an arrangement or feel they are being taken advantage of due to wage issues or for any other reason, they might want to consult an attorney to discuss what those rights are.

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