When laws are well-written, they’re really specific so everybody knows what you can and cannot do. For example, Title 21, Section 173.275(c) makes it a federal crime to use more hydrogenated sperm oil in food than necessary to accomplish the intended lubricating effect of the sperm oil. (Thanks @CrimeADay!)
Some laws, on the other hand, leave room for interpretation. That’s when lawyers can get creative.
A drapery hanger in Maryland filed a lawsuit alleging that he was misclassified as an independent contractor and should have been paid overtime like an employee. He sued under the usual federal and state laws, but he added a bit of creativity.
The Internal Revenue Code includes a section allowing someone to sue if an evildoer “files a fraudulent information return with respect to payments purported to be made to any other person.” That’s 26 USC 7434, for those keeping score at home. And USC refers to the United States Code, not OJ Simpson’s alma mater.
The drapery hanger included this claim in his lawsuit, alleging that the sole proprietorship that allegedly owed him overtime pay also violated this law by filing 1099s instead of W-2s.
Points will be awarded here for creativity, but those points cannot be used in court. Federal courts don’t take points. (This was not addressed in law school.) All points awarded may be applied to future discounts at your local gas station. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited.
The court said, nice try but no. This section of the Code refers to the filing of fraudulent amounts of pay, not filing the wrong form.
Had the decision gone the other way, a claim under this section of the Code could be tacked onto just about every independent contractor misclassification lawsuit. And we don’t need that hassle. There are already enough laws that cover misclassification. And sperm oil.
© 2019 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.