Friday, April 13, 2007

Are You Really an Independent Contractor?

Monday is tax day. Is the individual responsible for payroll taxes or is the employer? Is the individual entitled to overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week. It may depend on whether the individual is an independent contractor or an employee. How can you tell?

One place to start is Maryland's unemployment law. That law provides a narrow (perhaps the narrowest) definition of an independent contractor. The law states an individual is an independent contractor if:

(1) the individual who performs the work is free from control and direction over
its performance both in fact and under the contract;

(2) the individual customarily is engaged in an independent business or occupation of the same nature as that involved in the work; and

(3) the work is: (i) outside of the usual course of business of the person for whom the work is performed; or (ii) performed outside of any place of business of the person for whom the work is performed. (emphasis added)

The Court of Appeals interpreted the statute in DLLR v. Fox. There the Court held that hygienists (and other professionals) were employed by the agency that placed them in temporary positions in the Baltimore area. Why? The hygienists were not "free from control" by the agency. The agency "controlled" the hygienists' placement and pay rate. (As a result the agency had to pay back unemployment tax premiums for hygienists).

Again, the Maryland unemployment law independent contractor test is one of the most restrictive. The IRS and common law tests are slightly different. But, if your employer controls your work and sets your pay you may well be an employee entitled to unemployment benefits.

Do you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor? Contact me.

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