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What protections do independent contractors have?

There are numerous benefits of being an independent contractor in California. These include being able to choose where they work, when they work and how much to charge. Basically they are their own bosses which means much more flexibility than if they were employees. Being an independent contractor, however, also has a number of disadvantages, and one is that they are not protected in the same way other workers are.

According to NPR, the practice of hiring contract workers is increasing in a variety of industries such as accounting, warehousing, education, transportation and manufacturing. One of the reasons more contractors are being hired is because it is beneficial for the employers, as they do not need to pay for things such as benefits, workers' compensation, unemployment and payroll taxes. While working as a contractor can be beneficial, there are many federal and state laws they are unable to take advantage of. These include:

  • Workplace safety and health protections
  • Age Discrimination Employment Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 

This means if an employee experiences sexual harassment or is discriminated against because of a disability, he or she is unable to take legal action against the person or company who did the hiring. 

The LA Times discusses that other rules independent contractors are not protected by include those involving rest breaks, minimum wage and overtime. Because some companies misclassify their employees as contractors in order to take advantage of certain benefits, the state of California has recently made it more difficult for companies to classify workers as independent contractors. In order to be a contractor, it must be clearly determined that the worker is truly independent and free from control. This change in classification not only gives employees more protections, but it also keeps employers accountable for what is fair for the workers.  


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