The question of whether a particular worker is an employee or an independent contractor is an important one in courts in New York and around the country. In most states, the court will examine a number of factors to determine the status of the worker, with the primary factor being the level of control the business has over the details of the work performed.
A California case may be illustrative. The worker in that case was a taxi driver who signed a Taxicab Lease Agreement at the beginning of his relationship with the taxi company. The agreement disclaimed an employment relationship and gave the driver freedom with regard to how his job was performed. At the beginning of his shifts, the driver would check in and be assigned a taxi. At the end of the shift, he would return the vehicle and pay a gate fee. The gate fee did not vary based on the amount of money the driver made. He was free to accept or reject fares and to take breaks when he wanted to.
He was terminated and filed suit claiming he had been improperly classified as an independent contractor. The labor commission sided with the driver and the cab company appealed. The trial court found for the cab company and the driver appealed. The appeals court examined the level of control the company had over the performance of the work, the level of skill required for the work, whether the tools and instrumentalities of the job were provided by the company, whether the work was typical of the company and other factors. Ultimately, the appeals court determined the taxi driver was an employee and not an independent contractor.
This is an important area of wage and hour law, and it affects many compensation and benefits issues. People who believe that they have been misclassified might want to discuss their situation with an attorney who exclusively represents employees.