Newspaper Delivery Workers Ruled to Be Independent Contractors

When most people hear the term “contractor” they immediately think of a person you can hire to do work on your home.  You may be adding and extra room, building a garage, finishing a basement, or having many other types of work performed on the house.

visions-from-im-5-64561-mFor example, if you wanted to turn an unfinished basement into a guest apartment, you would have a contractor come over and prepare and estimate, and then you would hire this person to do the work.  He or she would tell you how long the job would take and what it would cost.  He or she would tell when you should stay out of the home to avoid any disruption and when the work would begin.
This person is called a contractor, because he or she is performing a specific job as agreed upon in a contract.  This is much different from an employee.  While you will obviously pick the material, such as the type of hardwood floor, paint color, and windows, you will not be providing any tools and you will certainly not be telling the contractor how to do the job.  This will be up to the contractor in most cases.  He or she can hire laborers or subcontractors to do some or all of the work, and that is not your problem.  If your contractor or anyone working for him or her gets injured, it is not your problem, and you are not required to provide workers compensation.

On the other hand, if you hired a kid from your neighborhood to help you finish the basement and provided the tools and detailed instructions of every task, you would have an employee and be responsible for his or her safety and also to provide benefits.

While this makes sense in this context, it can become much more complicated in some situations.  The truth is many large companies want to hire employees and treat them like independent contractors when it suits their needs.  This is called employment misclassification and may entitle you to a full and appropriate financial recovery depending on the facts of your particular situation.  We have recently seen cases where judges are finding that Uber has employees and not independent contractors, and that is good for their workers.

However, things do not always go so well for the workers, as discussed in a recent news article from The Fresno Bee.  This article was actually about the workers who delivered the newspaper each morning from 2004 through 2009.  They were involved in a class action lawsuit claiming employment misclassification, and the judge recently ruled that they were in fact independent contractors. The reason in this case was because of the contracts they signed, which said they were independent contractors.

However, it should be noted that this is not always a dispositive factor.  The issue has a lot do with how much control the employer has over the means of performance and who provides the equipment necessary to do the job.  In a newspaper delivery job, the newspaper does not generally provide any transportation, as they must use personal vehicles.  On the other hand, UPS drivers are required to lease special vehicles from the company and cannot use their personal vehicles.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.

Additional Resources:

Judge rules Fresno Bee carriers are independent contractors, April 16, 2016, Fresno Bee, By Tim Sheehan

More Blog Entries:

Top 5 Areas the EEOC is Pursuing Litigation to Protect Workers, Jan. 15, 2016, Orange County gender discrimination attorney blog

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