Intermittent, Part-time, Temporary Workers and Consultants…Independent Contractors or Employees?

People know and understand independent contractors to be service providers who parachute in to provide a service, and leave when the job is done. This understanding manifests itself in many common independent contractor hirings, and just as many misunderstandings as to who properly qualifies as an independent contractor. Consider the following common scenarios, and the rationalizations for hiring the worker as an independent contractor:

  • A non-profit hiring an interim executive director as an independent contractor. “She’s only here for a few months until we hire somebody permanently,” the non-profit says, adding: “She shouldn’t be on our books as an employee.”
  • A business hiring a tech services provider, or other expert/consultant, to provide full-time, in-house consultant services on an independent-contractor basis. “He doesn’t have a business license, but does he really need one?” the business says, adding: “In any event, he’s done the same thing for others as a consultant, and doesn’t want to be an employee.”
  • A law firm hiring a part-time attorney, working in-house, as an independent contractor. “Attorneys are hired as contract-attorneys all the time,” the firm says, adding: “Perhaps this is okay.”
  • A general contractor hiring casual laborers as independent subcontractors. “We just need help for this one job. Let’s not put her on our books as an employee.”
  • A small business hiring part-time help (e.g. an office assistant) on an independent-contractor basis. “He only comes in a few hours a month when I need him. Sometimes I don’t use him for months.” the business says, adding: “Surely, he can’t be an employee!”
  • A political campaign hiring political consultants as independent contractors.  See our post on Kshama Swant’s political campaign finding itself in hot water for hiring political consultants as independent contractors. It’s the “common and overwhelming practice” in political campaigns, the campaign allegedly reasoned.

And the list goes on and on, as do the various rationalizations for the independent contractor classification. While these workers may exhibit some indicia of independent contractor status, it is often incorrect to classify them as independent contractors for reasons that clearly disqualify them under federal and state law. These reasons include:

  • Not having actual, independent businesses.
  • Not being licensed as independent businesses i.e. no state registrations and no business licenses.
  • Providing services at employer’s place of business using company equipment.
  • Providing services on a full-time basis for the length of the project, indicating they are not providing services as an independent business with other clients to serve.
  • Having no other clients

And this list goes on and on. Bottomline, just because you’re hiring a worker on a part-time or temporary basis, or in a consultant/hired-gun capacity, don’t assume the independent contractor classification is correct. It often isn’t.

Related: My Business Misclassifies Workers as Independent Contractors. So what? 


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