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Appeals court: Calling someone a ‘contractor’ doesn’t necessarily mean he is one

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

A group of newspaper delivery people has won the right to take to court as a class action their dispute over whether they are independent contractors or employees.

Recent case: Maria and several other individuals signed on with the Antelope Valley Newspapers to deliver the newspaper to subscriber homes. Their duties included retrieving newspaper packets, stuffing them with the appropriate advertisements, labeling them and then delivering them.

Each signed an agreement designating themselves as independent contractors, not employees.

They sued for wage-and-hour issues and sought to represent a class of similarly situated newspaper carriers. The paper argued that they couldn’t do that, since their evidence consisted largely of testimony about how they each performed their job in their own way. This, argued the paper, showed that they couldn’t represent all others because their work days didn’t have enough in common.

The court disagreed. It pointed out that just because the evidence showed that the carriers had control over how they did their jobs didn’t mean that they didn’t have other common characteristics. (Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, No. B235484, Court of Appeal of California, 2nd Appellate District, 2012)

Final note: Remember, simply calling someone an independent contractor isn’t enough. The deciding factors are the details of the job, not the title. Get expert legal help before concluding someone isn’t an employee. There are different tests for different laws and agencies.

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