Misclassifying employees as independent contractors is a common way that employers attempt to circumvent the nation’s wage and hour laws. This practice caught up with a legal services company when current and former intake specialists filed a lawsuit seeking unpaid overtime. The case illustrates how abuse of the independent contracting system hurts employees by cheating them out of time and half pay. If the details of this case resemble your own experience, an attorney can help you seek back pay and other damages.
The Allegations Against Bridge Legal
A group of legal intake specialists have filed a lawsuit against three similarly named companies: Bridge Legal Support Services LLC, Bridge Legal Holdings LLC, and Bridge Legal Technology LLC. Plaintiffs accuse the defendants of misclassifying them as independent contractors, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA is the primary federal law that governs such matters as overtime pay and the minimum wage.
According to the complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the defendants had workers sign a “contractor agreement.” In reality, the nature of the relationship between the defendants and the workers is in line with a traditional employer-employee arrangement. For instance, according to plaintiffs, the companies:
- Controlled the rate and method of payment
- Dictated the workers’ schedules
- Implemented and enforced policies which governed the workers’ actions
- Subjected the workers to training that instructed them precisely how to do their jobs
- Controlled when breaks were taken, pursuant to the “contractor agreement”
These and other actions, if true, are inconsistent with an independent contractor relationship. The lawsuit claims that not only were the plaintiffs actually employees of the defendants, but they were also made to work more than 40 hours without the time and a half (overtime) pay to which the law entitles them.
What Are the Independent Contractor Rules?
As a general rule, employees are entitled to overtime pay while independent contractors are not. For this reason, many employers are notorious for deliberately misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. This illegally saves the employer significant amounts of money while depriving the employee of overtime pay and other benefits.
The more control a business has over the work-related activities of its workers, the more likely the workers are employees and not contractors. The IRS has adopted a number of guidelines to help employees, contractors, and employers better understand the differences between an independent contractor and an employee. These are a few signs that an employee has been incorrectly categorized as a contractor:
- The company directs and controls the work. This includes setting the worker’s hours, dictating the work and the manner in which the work is to be done, and determining the method of pay.
- The company provides the tools that the worker uses. An independent contractor would, by contrast, have an established business with his or her own tools, supplies, and implements to do the work.
- The company sets the earnings. If a worker is paid a predetermined, set amount (especially on a regular basis, like hourly) the worker is probably an employee.
- The worker provides services that align with what the company does. If the work tasks directly advance the company’s business objectives or line up with the services it routinely provides, the worker is probably not a contractor.
- The worker has not invested in the business. Employees do not usually invest resources into the companies that hire them, while independent contractors often invest money or assume some degree of financial risk.
- The worker has a traditional employee relationship with the company. Contracts can, but do not necessarily, answer this question along with other relevant factors.
Reach Out to an Attorney if You’ve Been Improperly Classified as an Independent Contractor
The allegations of the lawsuit, if true, line up more closely with an employment relationship between the companies and the plaintiffs. If this sounds similar to your situation, you may have been cheated out of significant amounts of overtime and other benefits. The Lore Law Firm’s national legal network can help you recover back pay and other damages. Complete our confidential online client intake form to get started.