Working as an independent contractor has advantages and disadvantages, but it is usually used to alleviate an employer of some of its tax burden and responsibility to provide benefits for an employee.
The truth of the matter is that many employers act first and wait for someone to cry foul when it comes to classifying its workers. Because there are not well-defined rules for what classifies an employee versus an independent contractor, many workers may be entitled to greater benefits and different taxation than they are currently receiving.
Those who do not fight for correct classification are not only cheating themselves out of fair compensation, they are contributing to a culture of unfair corporate control of workers.
Independent contractor versus employee
In broad terms, independent contractors are not employees of a company - rather, the company itself is a client of the contractor. Because of this difference in relationship, the employer generally does not have the authority to dictate how, when, or where a contractor does the work that he or she has been hired to do (with some exceptions depending on the nature of the work).
The company does, however, have the right to dictate elements of the goods or services that they are paying the contractor to provide.
In contrast, an employee agrees to a certain job description and must abide by many more guidelines and codes of conduct. While an employee has a more concrete relationship with the employer, he or she is also usually granted preferable taxation and employee benefits.
Elements of determining independent contractor status
There are multiple factors that contribute to determining if you should or should not be classified as an independent contractor. What should not be a factor, however, is the idea that "This is just how we do it here."
Many industries are full of companies who have been illegally classifying workers as independent contractors for many years, while workers simply take the loss.
Factors contributing to legitimately being classified as a contractor may include
Whether the tools and materials you use are the company's or your own
How crucial your work is to the success of the company as a whole
How permanent your work relationship is with the company
Whether or not you can dictate how, when, and where you do your work
How much risk of material loss you face when taking on work for a company
These are some of the factors that contribute to determining your rightful status as an employee or an independent contractor.
Fighting for your rights is fighting for all workers' rights
If you believe that you may be misclassified as an independent contractor when you should be receiving full employee benefits, then you deserve to fight for fair treatment. When you fight for fair treatment, you're also fighting for the fair treatment and compensation of thousands of other workers just like you who may be unfairly classified.