Independent contractor or employee? Your control over duties, schedule is the key

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

If your organization hires temporary workers to perform specific tasks for a set fee, don’t assume you automatically can declare them as independent contractors rather than employees.

The key factor in determining whether workers are independent contractors or employees is how much control you exert over their work.

Recent case: Eber Brothers Wine & Liquor contracted with Lisa Saalfield to conduct wine tastings at stores and trade shows. When the company no longer needed her services, she filed for unemployment compensation, claiming she actually had been an employee, not an independent contractor.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board sided with Saalfield, ruling that she was an employee.

It noted that Eber Brothers gave her informal training on how to conduct the tastings, scheduled where she needed to be and when, provided her with the wine and supplies and set her pay. All these factors indicated Saalfield wasn’t an independent contractor after all. The decision was upheld on appeal. (Saalfield v. Eber Brothers Wine & Liquor, No. 500945, Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, 2007) 

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