Employee v. Independent Contractor

What’s the deal?

NYC deposition reporters are just about exclusively 1099s, AKA independently contracted reporters. This is the thing that makes us our own boss, and is worth at least a cursory glance.

First thing first, a hiring entity looking to hire a 1099 with often ask them to fill out a W9. This is completely normal. In fact, you yourself are entitled to hire independent contractors and request a W9 from them too, and this is done so that the hiring entity has the hired entity’s tax information and can issue them a 1099 at the end of the year to show the IRS how much money was made and/or expended. You can print your own W9 forms here.

Now that we have that out of the way, there are some important distinctions between independent contractors and employees. There are tons of guidelines from the Workers Compensation Board and the IRS, but I’m going to sum them up for you, because who actually likes reading?

Generally, IC (independent contractor) versus employee: The hiring entity has direction and control over the hired entity. Basically, if they’re setting your hours, telling you when and where to be at all times, and directing you on how to do the work (micromanagement), then you are being treated as an employee. Hiring entities (reporting companies) bend this all the time. They’ll have reporters go out with business cards dressed up with the company logo, or they’ll tell them to only work for the agency, but unfortunately, that’s actually not something they’re entitled to do. Long story short, as an independent contractor, you’re allowed to work for as many hiring entities as you’d like, and should never sign a contract for an exclusive agreement unless they are giving you the world.

Realistically, the only ways to really “combat” a company treating you like an employee when you’re an independent contractor is to report them to the IRS, make a claim under unemployment with the theory that you were a misclassified employee, assert that you were a misclassified employee and the employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in some way, or make a claim on their Workers Compensation insurance if you are injured at work. Since about 80% of readers won’t want to burn bridges or rock boats, I offer a practical solution: When they’re telling you to do things like only work for them, smile, nod, and do whatever you’d like. You’re not obligated to tell them what other entities you work with. Even as an employee, you wouldn’t be required to tell them! Unless you’ve signed a contract saying you’ll only work for them, and I just told you not to, you can do anything you’d like. Freelance means being loyal to yourself!

For any future readers, I later touched on this topic here.

Edit on July 2: It’s come to my attention that after a recent Supreme Court California ruling there are lawyers in California seeking class status for independent contractors that were misclassified. You may have legal rights in this regard, or even end up a trailblazer for a similar case in for state. There was previously a lawyer ad for this but it was since taken down.

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