Legal Articles

Surrency-380x360.jpgEmployee or Independent Contractor: Does it Matter?BY CHANDLER SURRENCY | HOPKINS & HUEBNER, P.C. | DES MOINES OFFICE

A question that often arises in the law is whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.  The primary focus in categorizing a person as either an employee or an independent contractor is on the extent of the control by the employer over the details of the alleged employee’s work.  If the right to control the method of accomplishing a particular result lies with the worker, that individual is an independent contractor.  On the other hand, if the right to control the method of accomplishing a particular result is vested in the employer, the worker is an employee.

Courts have detailed several factors to help determine how a worker is categorized: who had the right to control the physical conduct of the work; whether the purported employee was on the employer’s payroll; the method of payment, whether by time or by job; who provided the equipment to accomplish the work; the individual’s obligation to furnish necessary tools, supplies, and materials; the existence of a contract for the performance of a certain kind of work at a fixed price; the independent nature of the individual’s business; the individual’s employment of assistants, with the right to supervise their activities; the time for which the individual is employed; whether the work is part of the regular business of the employer; the intent of the parties; and the right to control the progress of the work, except as to final results.

So here’s the million (or at least thousand) dollar question: Why does it matter how a worker is categorized?  It matters because employees are entitled to different benefits than independent contractors.  For example, when an employee suffers an injury while on the job, there should be workers’ compensation coverage for the injury.  However, an employer is not required to provide workers’ compensation coverage for an independent contractor.  Similarly, the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law allows an employee to bring a claim for unpaid wages.  Unfortunately for independent contractors, the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law only applies to employees, so independent contractors cannot bring a claim under that provision.  With that being said, there are often other avenues available for employees and independent contractors with job-related claims.  Whether you are a worker or an employer, it is wise to contact a specialized and knowledgeable attorney if you have questions about a job-related claim.