What are my rights as a contractor (1099) worker?
May 24, 2006 2:19 PM   Subscribe

What are my rights as a contractor (1099) worker?

What are my rights as a contractor (1099) worker, specifically in regards to time worked? I am being paid as a contractor for a design firm, but they demand that I come in at a certain time. I signed an agreement as a 'fulltime freelancer'. Are there websites out there that have resources so I know my rights?
posted by dvjtj to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does your contract state the time(s) they expect you to come in?
posted by chiababe at 2:26 PM on May 24, 2006

The IRS would consider their control over your work hours and work environment (you "come in" to their office right) to be two pretty good signs that you are their common-law employee regardless of what any contract claims. More details in this PDF

You can point out to them that this would mean they'd owe back taxes and penalties on your earnings, not to mention whatever benefits they normally provide to their other employees. Or they can decide they don't need to control your work hours after all. Cheers!
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:29 PM on May 24, 2006

Okay, here's the deal. You have no "rights" that would allow you to force your employer to do anything. They could ask you to come to work in a chicken suit, and your only remedy is to quit.

Now, as a general matter, they are treating you like an employee. The IRS has a guide that describes how they determine independent contractor vs. employee. Behavioral control is indicative of an employee relationship rather than an independent contractor relationship. Perhaps they should be paying Social Security, unemployment insurance, and so on for you.

However, that possible wrong-doing by the business doesn't give you any rights, except the right to drop a dime on them to the IRS and state authorities. Doing that will get you fired.
posted by jellicle at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2006

Also, the IRS apparently disagrees that there's such a thing as a "fulltime freelancer". A freelancer, by definition, must be free to accept work from multiple clients. If you're committed to being fulltime for one "client", then the government reasonably assumes that your dance card has been filled. They call that an employee.

Sounds like you're getting shafted. Keep in mind that employee benefits typically account for 40% of overall compensation, plus employers effectively pay 50% of your payroll taxes (vs you paying 100% of those taxes as a 1099). So unless you're getting a really good tax deduction for "freelancing" expenses, you're getting all the downside of employement with none of the protections or considerable financial benefits.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:38 PM on May 24, 2006

As someone who has worked as a "fulltime freelancer" for a number of years, I can tell you that this is very common practice for the design industry. Is it right/legal/good? I don't know, but I know it's commonplace.

My suggestion is to work out a schedule with your client that's amenable to both parties, then stick to it as much as possible. As a contractor, you don't have vacation or sick days, but if you're going to be out for a vacation or doctor's appointment, then you should have the courtesy to notify your client of your absence, keeping in mind the schedule for the project. (Notice that I didn't say ask for permission.)

It's really about maintaining a good relationship. When I was freelancing, I certainly did have other clients whose projects I worked on after hours or on weekends. I also came in at a reasonable hour (9ish) so that I could interact with other members of the team/client. You can say "you don't own me, so I can come in whenever I want" but then you might destroy that relationship. I don't see it as them "giving you the shaft"--just giving you their preferences for how you work with them. Remember that as a freelancer, you're your own business and don't have "rights" per se; you should negotiate whatever terms you want with your client.

I would also suggest that you check out the AIGA. They're an overall great resource for designers and might have some publications about this subject.
posted by lunarboy at 4:21 PM on May 24, 2006

thanks everybody for the comments...i think that, just starting out, its interesting to see just how far my 'rights' go as far as employers are concerned.
posted by dvjtj at 11:00 PM on May 25, 2006

Remember, one of the reasons they contract you, instead of hiring you, is so they do not have to grant you the benefits they offer themselves (like fat severence packages when they get bought out, or group-rate health insurance, if in the US). Of course it's also done just to circumvent corporate hiring freezes (but that relates to what you don't get).

The people who hired you may not be setting policy on such matters (especially with big companies). You may wish to consider that in your decisions (or not).
posted by Goofyy at 5:08 AM on May 26, 2006

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