Employment law is a wide open area of the law that encompasses a variety of situations. One of the commonly misunderstood areas of employment law has to do with a person’s employment classification. This includes the differences between an employee and an independent contractor.

The difference between these two classifications is important because employees have many protections that independent contractors don’t have. Unfortunately, this leads some employers to classify workers incorrectly to avoid having to offer the protections required for employees.

One of the biggest differences between employees and independent contractors is the control over their person. Typically, employees have to report to employers on a set schedule to perform duties that are stipulated by the job description. Independent contractors are usually free to set their own schedules and typically can work from any reasonable place.

Another difference is that employers typically won’t deduct income tax out of payments made to an independent contractor. Interestingly, it is still possible that you will be considered an employee if no withholdings are taking out of your pay and you are provided a 1099 instead of a W2.

It is important that you fully understand your classification so that you can know what rights you have. Typically, wage and hour laws, such as break periods and overtime pay, will apply to employees and not independent contractors. If you have disputes as an independent contractor, you will have to take the case to court instead of trying to go through state agencies for help. This alone can mean that independent contractors need to be willing and able to stand up for their rights.

Source: State of California Department of Industrial Relations, “Independent contractor versus employee,” accessed Jan. 11, 2018