Yesterday I was at Ohio E-check. When they use their fancy vehicle emissions testing equipment, they ask you to get out of your car and wait in a small glass-walled waiting area. Inside there are two signs. The first says: “Ohio E-Check. No cell phones!” The second says: “Ohio E-Check. How are we doing? To comment, use this QR code.”
Regrettably, I complied with the first sign, so I do not have a picture for you of the two signs. (While waiting, I tried like hell to memorize that QR code!)
When waiting for E-Check, mixed messages are funny. When retaining independent contractors, however, mixed messages are no joke. If enough signs suggest that a contractor is really an employee, the risk of a misclassification finding is heightened, and the consequences of misclassification can be severe.
One common way that companies send mixed messages is by allowing contractors to portray themselves in ways that make them appear to the general public as if they are employees. Examples can include allowing the contractor to use a company email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), a company ID badge, or a company business card.
Or companies sometimes send the mixed messages themselves, such as by listing independent contractors on the company website as part of “Our Team” or “Our Staff.” (Note to Spanky & Alfalfa: ok to keep using “Our Gang.”)
So what have we learned today? I learned that after yesterday, I won’t need E-Check for another two years. But I’ve already made a note in my calendar to bring my phone inside. You know, for the QR code.
© 2019 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.