Some Tennessee residents who work in what is known as the “gig economy” might actually be considered employees instead of independent contractors. In California, a lawsuit is underway in a federal court involving a man who was a driver for the company GrubHub for five months in 2015. The man says that as an employee, he was entitled to reimbursement for business expenses and overtime but that he was misclassified. GrubHub says that it simply connects drivers and customers with restaurants but is not an employer.
Examples the company used to demonstrate that the man was correctly classified as an independent contractor include that he could work when and how he wanted to. However, the man’s attorney said that the company controlled access to work and that this was a sign of an employee. For example, drivers who completed deliveries quickly were able to get better time slots. The company also encouraged drivers to wear its branded clothing while working.
Since the case is being heard in a trial and not an appeals court, it will be less likely to set a precedent, but it may have an effect. This is the first case of its type to go to trial instead of ending in a settlement. If the case is successful, the man wants to bring a class action suit.
People who believe they have been misclassified as contractors when they were actually employees or who have other disputes with an employer about wages, overtime or other pay issues might want to talk to an attorney. Even if the person is working to resolve the issue in the workplace, a consultation about employee rights and wage and hour laws may give the employee the information needed for these negotiations.