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Give contractors plenty of leeway, so it’s clear they are truly independent

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

If you plan on using independent contractors to get work done, be sure to grant those workers a great deal of autonomy and freedom to do their work as they see fit. The less effort you make to control how and when they do their jobs, the better off you are.

Plus, letting them accept work from other companies also helps show they are truly economically independent.

Recent case: Jeffrey began working as a process server in college. He signed on as an independent contractor and was paid a flat fee for every court paper he served.

Seven years later, he began working for a competitor and sued the company for which he once worked. He alleged that he should have been classified as an employee and therefore been paid hourly, plus reimbursement for all his business expenses.

The company presented evidence that Jeffrey had set his own hours, was free to turn down assignments, took vacations and time off when he chose and did, in fact, turn down assignments he felt would not yield a sufficient profit.

The jury concluded he was an independent contractor based on the economic realities of the relationship between the company and Jeffrey.

He appealed, but the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals let the jury’s decision stand. It said there was plenty of evidence that Jeffrey was a true independent contractor, free to turn down work, set his hours, decide whether an assignment was economically attractive and so on. (Karlson v. Action Process Service, 8th Cir., 2017)

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