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Independent Contractor Lawsuits

This Alert Affects:

Anyone working as an independent contractor.

What's Going On?
Across the country, independent contractors are suing the companies they work for, claiming that they're actually employees and should be receiving overtime pay and other benefits.
Why Would a Company Call Me an Independent Contractor If I'm Not One?
Business who hire independent contractors instead of employees don't have to pay unemployment taxes, the minimum wage or overtime pay.
Industries at Risk
Media, entertainment and publishing; hospitality; security; trucking, transportation and delivery services; healthcare; cleaning/janitorial services; automotive; finance and insurance; cable and Internet services; computer programming; amateur sports; and more. Scroll down for the full list.
How You Can Get More Help
If you're working as an independent contractor but suspect you're actually an employee, fill out the form on this page. After you get in touch, one of the attorneys we work with may reach out to you to discuss your job and how you're being paid. There's no catch – you don't have to pay to talk to an attorney and you're not obligated in any way to file a lawsuit.

Dozens of class action lawsuits have been filed by independent contractors who say they’re actually employees under the law. The workers claim that because they’ve been misclassified as independent contractors, they’re getting cheated out of overtime wages and a number of other rights typically afforded to employees. Macy’s, FedEx, Lowe’s and other big names have already been sued, paying out millions to workers they allegedly misclassified as “independent contractors.”

Why Would a Company Call Me an Independent Contractor If I’m Not One?  

There are two possibilities: either they’re trying to save money and/or they’re confused by federal and state labor laws governing the important distinction between employees and independent contractors. 

Companies who hire independent contractors don’t have to pay for a lot of things, including unemployment taxes and workers’ compensation insurance. They also don’t have to make Medicare or Social Security contributions on money paid to independent contractors.

Additionally, unlike employees, independent contractors aren’t entitled to the minimum wage or overtime pay. Contractors also have no legal rights to form unions or take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and are not protected against discrimination and sexual harassment.

If you’re working as an independent contractor and you’re worried you’ve been misclassified, get in touch with ClassAction.org by filling out this form. Once you send in your information, an attorney may call or e-mail you to learn more about your job and the work you do. There’s no cost to talk to an attorney or to find out whether you could have been misclassified. Plus, you’re not obligated to take legal action if you decide you don’t want to.

How Do I Know If I’m an Employee or Independent Contractor Under Employment Laws?

It’s not always easy to tell, but the Department of Labor (DOL) has it boiled it down to this – if you’re in business for yourself, you’re an independent contractor, but if you’re economically dependent on the company, you’re an employee.

According to the DOL, there are six factors that determine whether a worker is “economically dependent” on the company he or she is working for. One of these factors is the level of control the company has over the worker. While there a number of different “tests” – at both the state and federal level – that help determine independent contractor status, the level of control the company exercises is considered in almost all of them.   

What’s This About Control?

The more control a company has, the less likely it is that the worker is an independent contractor.

In nearly all the lawsuits filed by independent contractors, the contractors argue that because the company exercised “significant control” over them, they are employees. In the suits, the contractors gave examples of this “control,” including instances where the company had a significant say in:  

  • Work schedules (when and where work must be done)
  • The tools and equipment to be used   
  • The way workers dressed (uniforms, shaving requirements, etc.)
  • Where workers purchased their supplies/services
  • What workers could be hired to help with a project

Someone who is in business for him or herself would mostly like have a say in these matters.

It’s important to remember that just because a company calls you an independent contractor – or even gives you a 1099 to fill out – doesn’t mean that you are one. It’s up to the law, not the company you work for, to decide your employment status. In fact, the Department of Labor just released guidance that says most workers are employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Industries at Risk for Employee Misclassification

Below you will find examples of industries that were either targeted by  government investigations or hit with class action lawsuits over their classification of their workers. This list is not exhaustive.

  • Home products installation (including cable and internet installation)
  • Banking, insurance and financial services
  • Pharmaceuticals and health care (including ambulatory services)
  • Security
  • Technology
  • Computer programming
  • Education (colleges, universities, etc.)
  • Adult entertainment (including exotic dancers)
  • Cosmetics, fashion and beauty
  • Hospitality
  • Staffing services
  • Cleaning and janitorial services
  • Courier, delivery and logistics (including truck and delivery drivers)
  • Taxi, limo and car rental services
  • Amateur sports
  • Media
  • Entertainment (TV, radio, movies, performing arts, etc.)
  • Publishing and editing
  • Marketing and communications
  • Energy
  • Environmental services
  • Construction
  • Landscaping
  • Manufacturing
  • Consulting
  • Food and beverage services

Have These Lawsuits Been Successful?

Yes. Here are some results from the last few years:

  • Nearly $230 million for a group of FedEx delivery drivers
  • Nearly $12 million for drivers at an airport shuttle company
  • $10 million for more than 100 custodians in Massachusetts
  • $8 million for dancers at a strip club in New York
  • $6.5 settlement for Lowe’s home improvement contractors

If you’re confused about whether you’re an employee or an independent contractor under the law, get in touch with us today by filling out this form. One of the attorneys we work with may then reach out to you to help determine whether you’ve been misclassified. If you’re really an employee working as an “independent contractor,” you could be owed money through a class action lawsuit.

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Case Resources

Am I An Employee?: Employment Relationship Under the FLSA
The Department of Labor's fact sheet provides information on the six factors that help determine whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee under employment laws.
Improved Outreach Could Help Ensure Proper Worker Classification
The Government Accountability Office investigates the problem of employee misclassification and makes recommendations to the Department of Labor.
Campos v. California Cartage Company, LLC
An example of a lawsuit filed on behalf of truck drivers who were allegedly misclassified as independent contractors.
Employee or Contractor?
The Department of Labor provides more information on what it means to be "economically independent."