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Employee classification important for insurance and benefits

Workers in California may, in certain circumstances, be difficult to categorize as employees or independent contractors. The distinction is an important one when it comes to things like taxes, insurance and retirement savings. Those who are classified as employees are more likely to be entitled to unemployment benefits and reimbursement of expenses as well.

With the increased level of freedom demanded by today's workers and the explosion of shared-work companies like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and Grubhub, the courts are faced with questions of worker classification now more than ever. A California employee misclassification case may shed light on the issue. The plaintiff in the case performed work for GrubHub and claimed to have been a GrubHub employee. The company classified the worker as an independent contractor.

At issue in the case is whether the former driver for GrubHub was misclassified and should have been entitled to benefits like insurance, expense reimbursement and unemployment. Ride-share company Lyft settled a class-action lawsuit in March, paying $27 million to 95,000 California drivers who claimed they should have been classified as employees.

The classification question is not an easy one for the courts to answer in many cases. The judge or jury is required to evaluate a number of factors. Who controls the schedule, who provides the tools and whether the worker is allowed to perform jobs for others will all bear on the decision.

In cases where an individual believes he or she has been misclassified as an independent contractor, an attorney might be able to help by examining the specific circumstances of job performance and offering advice regarding the likelihood of success of wage and hour lawsuits. An attorney with experience in employment law may be able to negotiate a settlement with an employer or argue on behalf of the client during court proceedings.

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