In the ‘gig economy,” many Florida workers are hired as freelancers or contractors. The designation is critical when interpreting a variety of federal employment statutes. In particular, federal workplace laws banning age, gender, racial and religious discrimination are unavailable to workers not classified as ’employees.”
Historically, most workers were hired as employees, and federal laws designed to protect them revolved around that classification and did not apply to contract workers. In the past, contractors were almost exclusively brought onto premises temporarily for a specific purpose such as maintenance or repair work unrelated to the core mission of a business. Recent trends have changed official designations and had consequences unintended by legislators who passed civil rights laws. Critics complain that the contractor label has been misapplied and abused to circumvent federal labor and wage laws. Proponents, usually arguing on behalf of employers, state that contractors enjoy control over working conditions and higher levels of freedom than traditional employees.
Workers designated as contractors are typically not given benefits such as insurance. By hiring contractors, employers can avoid the trouble of withholding taxes and paying for workers’ compensation. The full extent of the problem, as it relates to discrimination, is unknown since the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not keep statistics regarding the complaints of contractors, who are not under the agency’s purview.
If an individual has suffered from an inappropriately hostile work environment or been subjected to discrimination, he or she may have a valid claim even if the employer misclassifies the worker. Consulting a qualified employment lawyer for sexual harassment legal assistance can help clarify the actual status of an employee or contractor.