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For unemployment purposes, your degree of control determines worker’s status

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Under Minnesota unemployment compensation law, individuals aren’t independent contractors just because the company that uses their labor says they are.

What matters is how much control the company has over the worker. Generally, the more control the company claims to have over how, when and where the job is done, the more likely the worker is an employee who is entitled to unemployment compensation benefits.

Recent case: John worked for a company that makes surveillance products for commercial, residential and agricultural customers. His employment agreement stipulated that he would only be paid commission on sales after the customer paid and that he had to work 40 hours per week.

He was required to show up at meetings when requested and was issued a company laptop with custom software to record his time and sales.

The company terminated the contract when it learned John would soon be going to prison for a probation violation.

He applied for unemployment compensation benefits, arguing he was covered because he was an employee despite the company’s assertion that he had been an independent contractor.

The company argued that it hadn’t controlled how John did his job. It pointed out that it had never enforced the 40-hours-per-week work requirement.

The court sided with John. It said what counted was the employer’s right to make John work 40 hours, not whether it actually exercised that right. (Hochstein v. Video Surveillance Solutions, No. A-15-0387, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2015)

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