School’s Back in Session: How Much Training Can You Give to Independent Contractors?

“We don’t need no education / We don’t need no thought control,” are the opening lines to Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part II). “Teachers, leave them kids alone!”

The same advice can be given when retaining independent contractors. Contractors are supposed to be in business for themselves. They are expected to be competent in performing the types of activities they are being retained to perform. In several of the Independent Contractor vs. Employee tests applied to federal and state laws, the amount and type of training is a factor that can tilt the scales toward a finding of misclassification.

But sometimes, some training is needed. The key questions to ask yourself are, What type? And How much?

Let’s start with the basics. A contractor should already be trained to perform the skill the contractor is being retained to perform. Suppose you are in the lighting business and you retain contractors to install light fixtures for your customers. The contractors should be skilled in installing light fixtures and should probably be licensed electricians. You should not be training them in how to install light fixtures.

You can, however, educate them on your products and their specific features. You can educate them on your shipping procedures or your pickup requirements. If you want them to arrive at a specific location in your warehouse to pick up fixtures and not to smoke on your property, you can give those instructions.

The idea is that these are your rules and your products, and contractors who wish to do business with you need to follow them. That’s the context in which these types of rules should be presented. Try to avoid calling any of this guidance “training.” Provide “Contractor Pickup Procedures” or something similar. Context and word choice are important.

You probably need to impose some rules on your contractors because The Show Must Go On. But those rules should focus on your products and your facility, not how to do the work. If your business is careful and deliberate in limiting the type and amount of training, you can maintain The Happiest Days of Our Lives.

It is important to evaluate and re-evaluate your current practices at every opportunity. Be proactive and take steps to ensure compliance. The solution is not to be Comfortably Numb.

© 2018 Todd Lebowitz, posted on, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.

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