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Are you treated like an employee but paid like a contractor?

Massachusetts wants you classified correctly according to the law as an employee or a contactor. With the wrong classification, you’re probably not getting pay and protections that improve your quality of life, but the Commonwealth is also being cheated. And Massachusetts does not like that.

Does worker classification really matter?

Many employers use independent contractors properly because they can bring valuable skills to a company until the job gets done properly, and then bring their skills to the next company. And a lot of workers prefer it that way.

But independent contractors aren’t required to be paid the minimum wage or to get overtime pay (generally, the hourly wage plus half that wage every hour over 40 hours a week). You’re also being shorted on critically important protections like workers’ compensation (for medical bills and lost wages for job-related health problems), and unemployment insurance.

Massachusetts sees employers who misclassify you as potentially guilty of insurance fraud, tax evasion, unfair competition in the market place and other misdeeds.

How can you tell if you’re being misclassified?

Whether you should be considered an independent contractor instead of an employee comes down to three fairly simple tests.

First, as an independent contractor you’re truly independent and “free from control and direction.” You might be, for example, a sign painter or drywaller who takes a smoke break or eats lunch whenever you want. You’re there to get the job done, not to punch the clock at the start and end of the work day.

Second, as an independent contractor you work “outside the usual course of business of the employer.” Someone flipping burgers at a burger shop is probably doing the usual, day-to-day, basic work of the business and should probably an employee. If you’re creating the first redesign of the burger shop’s menu in years, you might be an independent contractor.

Third, an independent contractor does their own thing, or “is customarily engaged in an independently established trade … of the same nature as that involved” in your current job. In other words, if you do this job for one company after another and consider yourself a business that offers this work, you may be an independent contractor. As an independent contractor, maybe you love dry cleaning, have your own dry-cleaning business cards, and you’ll dry clean anywhere for anyone anytime, for one dry cleaner after another.

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