Among the many methods used by businesses to cheat workers is that of misclassification. By calling a worker an independent contractor, rather than an employee, companies can avoid a host of legal responsibilities, including the need to provide a safe workplace, pay proper wages and cover things like unemployment and worker’s compensation. Misclassifying workers has grown alongside the practice of legitimately using contractors to provide labor. It is a sign that many employers are happy to cut costs at the expense of the communities they serve, even if doing so endangers workers and violates the law.
An Administrative Law Judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently ruled that a Connecticut construction company has misclassified a number of employees as independent contractors. The Judge levied fines against the company for violations of workplace safety standards. A Regional Administrator with OSHA supported the finding, noting that, “Employers have a fundamental responsibility to their employees, to provide them with a safe and healthful workplace.”
Determining whether a worker is truly an independent contractor or is, in actuality, an employee requires a look at how the parties conduct themselves and how the work is completed. The amount of control exercised over the work by the hiring company is one factor. In the Connecticut case, the Judge found that the construction company dictated when and for how long the individuals worked. The company also provided materials and equipment necessary to complete the job. As is often the case in these situations, the managerial skills and initiative of the workers did not control their wages. The company paid the workers an hourly wage.
Cheating workers out of benefits and fair wages by calling them independent contractors is unacceptable behavior. Using that classification to endanger those workers is despicable. Fortunately, OHSA saw through the attempt to shirk responsibility and held this employer accountable.
Source: WorkersCompensation.com, “OSHA Administrative Law Judge Rules that CT Contractor Misclassified Employees as Independent Contractors,” 23 February 2016