Dear Compliance Man:
I got hired as a painter six months ago. I was happy to find work but there’s always been something kind of funny about this job. My boss says that we’re not employees but independent painters. Since I started, I’ve worked on a couple of schools and some private stuff and I always get paid the same flat rate, no taxes taken out. Is this illegal?
–Painted into a Corner
Thanks for writing. I understand how tough it is in this economy to come forward and question an employer when so many construction workers are out of work.
Your instinct is almost certainly correct though. For years, employers have been trying to skirt state and federal wage laws by claiming that you are your own boss. In fact, a study of construction contractors in Massachusetts found that 14% of them had wrongly classified their workers as independent contractors, denying them the wages and benefits they’re legally entitled to and sticking them with a major bill come tax time. Fortunately, both state and federal authorities have begun to crack down on this particular scam.
The bottom line: if your boss calls the shots about where and when you work and provides you with the equipment necessary to do your job, you are NOT an independent contractor.