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HR Solutions

Independent Contractor or Employee?
Judge Says Former, Even with One
Year of Training

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Sun-Times Distributor never Paid
Wages, Exercised Little Control


    Judge Andersen of the Northern District of Illinois Federal Court here has thrown out a pregnancy discrimination case filed by an individual whose engagement with the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper was terminated.  He applied the standard "economic realities" test and weighed the facts in the newspaper's favor.  The plaintiff was not an "employee" for purposes of the federal discrimination laws.

    The court weighed these factors, well-established as the way to determine independent contractor status:  (1) the extent of the employer's control and supervision over the worker, including directions on scheduling and performance of work, (2) the kind of occupation and nature of skill required, including whether skills are obtained in the workplace, (3) responsibility for the costs of operation, such as equipment, supplies, fees, licenses, workplace, and maintenance of operations, (4) method and form of payment and benefits, and (5) length of job commitment and/or expectations.

    When first engaged, Emily Smith went through almost a year of training, and the court admitted this pointed in the direction of employee status.  But she could distribute the newspapers in any she wanted, in any order, without controls of any kind from the Sun-Times, who paid her no wages and gave her no benefits.

    The only control over her daily tasks was a requirement that she work certain days and deliver to customers on lists provided by the Sun-Times.

8/23/07