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Independent Contractor or Employee?

Thanks to two legal results last week involving the popular ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft – each of whom considers its drivers as independent contractors, not employees – it seemed timely to revisit this issue.  Businesses often prefer to classify people as independent contractors for various cost-saving reasons (e.g., payroll taxes, benefits, workers compensation insurance premiums, and avoidance of various labor law obligations, etc.); however, the fact remains that more times than not, their classifications are legally improper. In the end, the issue usually comes down to one of “control.” Though various facts and circumstances go into the analysis. There are a lot of published materials on this issue, but a good place to start for an overview is the California Department of Industrial Relations site found here. The risks of misclassifying a W2 employee as a 1099 independent contractor far outweigh the benefits. As a general rule, businesses are better served using the independent contractor classification sparingly, if at all.