The way an employer classifies your employment can dictate much more than you might realize, from the amount you get paid to your rights in the event of an accident. There could be costly consequences if your employer misclassifies your role, so it is crucial to be aware of when this has happened.
The problem with misclassification
Misclassification may result in many restrictions or limitations on your employment that might not otherwise exist. When a worker is misclassified, they can be underpaid, or on the flip side they may not receive critical support, services and benefits they are otherwise entitled to. Additionally, misclassified workers may not have the professional freedom and mobility their correct job classification should provide.
For instance, an independent contractor can mean:
- Setting your own schedule
- Choosing which jobs to accept and which to turn down
- Earning more money per hour or job than standard employees
- Working for a company without having to commit to it long-term
- Gaining experience in a range of jobs
On the other hand, being an employee can mean:
- Job stability
- Paying lower taxes
- Few or no operating costs
- Better benefits, like medical insurance and retirement contributions from an employer
- Eligibility for programs like workers’ compensation and job-protected leave
In sum, if your role as an employee is misclassified, you can miss out on the benefits of what the correct classification may offer and experience shortcomings you should otherwise be entitled to avoid.
How it can happen
Misclassification can happen intentionally or not. Some roles do not fall neatly into one category, so there can be confusion over whether you are an employee, independent contractor or another type of worker.
Several questions can help you determine if you are an independent contractor or an employee. For instance:
- Are you in control of the style and content of your work?
- Did you and your employer negotiate your salary, hours and deadlines?
- Are you only responsible for specific projects?
- Is the position temporary?
- Do you use your own materials and equipment to do your work?
- Do you work primarily under your own direction without significant oversight from your employer?
Answering yes to these questions could mean you are an independent contractor instead of an employee.
But between gig employment, remote work opportunities and a drive to improve the work-life balance, it is not always clear if a person is truly an independent contractor or a traditional employee. Thus, misclassification can occur.
If you suspect an employer has misclassified you, legal guidance can be crucial. Talking to an attorney can help you protect yourself and your rights as a worker in New York.