Today’s Tip: Avoid Blurring Lines Between Independent Contractors and Employees


This mistake may seem obvious, but companies do it all the time.  When an independent contractor is performing the same work as employees, the contractor is likely to be deemed an employee.

Remember, the determination of whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee is made based on the facts of the relationship, not what the parties call it. If the facts are that a contractor is doing the same work, in the same location, with the same instructions, and under the same supervision as an employee, then the contractor is likely an employee and should be paid as an employee.

I am not suggesting there is any problem using staffing agency workers or temp-to-hire.  Those workers are being paid by the staffing agency as employees. That is, their paychecks show withholdings and deductions, and their pay is reported by the staffing agency on a W-2, not a 1099. These are employees of the staffing agency (and very possibly your joint employees, but that’s a separate issue).

The issue addressed in this post is the use of 1099 independent contractors to perform the same type of work as employees.  If the work performed by an employee is employment, then it is very hard to maintain the position that the same work being performed by a contractor is not employment.

Summary: Avoid assigning contractors to perform the same work as employees.  When individual contractors and employees work side-by-side doing the same thing, the likelihood of misclassification is high.

D.C. Court Doesn’t Fall for NLRB’s Lollipop Trick, Deems FedEx Drivers Independent Contractors

img_1042Act I, Scene 1

Location: Anywhere, USA

Boy: Can I have a red lollipop?

Mom: No, we’re eating dinner in half an hour.

Boy: (eats blue lollipop)

Mom: What are you doing? I said no!

Boy: I only asked about the red lollipop.

Too cute by half, right? Mom is no fool and easily sees through the simple trick. The boy is grounded.

Act I, Scene 2

Location:  D.C. Court of Appeals

NLRB: These FedEx drivers in Massachusetts are employees, not independent contractors.

D.C. Circuit (2009): No, they’re independent contractors.

NLRB: Ok, Connecticut then. The FedEx drivers in Connecticut are employees, not independent contractors.

D.C. Circuit (2017): Are you kidding me? We already ruled they are independent contractors.

NLRB: Last time I only asked about the drivers in Massachusetts.

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Joint Employment Update: What’s The Status of Browning-Ferris and the NLRB?


In August 2015, the NLRB rewrote the book on joint employment, declaring in the Browning-Ferris case that the right to exercise minimal control, even if not actually exercised, was enough to create a joint employment relationship.  (Read more here.) Previously, joint employment under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) required the actual exercise of a meaningful level of control.

But what’s happened since then? What happens next? What should employers expect in 2017 regarding joint employment under the NLRA?

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Why Misclassification Matters

Uh Oh!


With a finding of worker misclassification, the workers you thought were not your employees are suddenly deemed your employees.  What does that mean practically?  It means that you have not been complying with all of the laws that apply to employees.

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