Articles Tagged with “independent contractors”

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yes-3029367__340-300x158The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey recently issued a decision which illustrates some of the weaknesses in both Federal and New Jersey Employment law, particularly Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.  Our attorneys represent both employers and employees in employment law, and this issue is of utmost concern to us.

The decision was in the case of Axakowsky v. NFL Productions, LLC, d/b/a NFL Films.  In that case, Nadia Axakowsky sued NFL Productions, LLC, for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.  The judge dismissed the case on summary judgment, ruling that Axakowsky was an independent contractor and therefore was not protected by either law.

The judge undertook a detailed analysis under federal case law interpreting Title VII.  Culminating with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company v. Darden in 1992, the federal courts have developed a test to determine whether a worker classified as a contractor is in reality an employee entitled to protection under Title VII.  The judge went into detail examining all the factors in the relationship, and determined that Axakowsky was in reality a contractor, not an employee, and therefore not entitled to protection under Title VII.  Without going into detail, given that Axakowsky worked only one and a half hours per week as a voice-over artist and continued to audition for and accept other work, the analysis was in all likelihood correct.

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employment_law_damages.jpgThe New Jersey Supreme Court recently clarified an employment law issue which has been vexing employment lawyers for decades. In its recent landmark decision in Hargrove versus Sleepy’s LLC, the Supreme Court laid out the rules for determining when a worker should be considered an employee under different New Jersey employment laws. The specific laws it addressed governed the payment of wages and overtime to employees.

This is an extremely important issue for both employers and employees – it normally determines whether a worker will get benefits such as health insurance and 401(k), and whether the worker or employer will be responsible for paying the worker’s payroll taxes, not to mention overtime.

Background

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Businesses with any New Jersey employees are responsible for withholding and paying income taxes, Medicare taxes, and Social Security, and paying payroll taxes on wages paid to their employees. However, in general, the same businesses do not have to do so when hiring independent contractors.

Therefore, it may be tempting for a business to classify all workers as independent contractors to avoid payments. However, the Internal Revenue Service and New Jersey Division of Taxation have stringent regulations to ensure that businesses correctly classify their workers. The IRS imposes significant penalties on businesses which have misclassified their workers as independent contractors.

A worker is an independent contractor if the “employer” has the right to direct only the result, but not the way in which the worker performs her job. For example, if a business hires a New Jersey attorney to sue another company for breach of a contract, the business does not direct the attorney on how to argue the case, what motions to file, etc. The client educates the attorney about the dispute and asks the attorney to work towards a certain result (recovering lost profits). Therefore, this attorney is a New Jersey independent contractor, not an employee.
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