Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law and Damages

Dec 19, 2012

The Massachusetts independent contractor law restricts employers from classifying workers as independent contractors unless the employer can show (1) that the individual is free from direction and control, (2) the service is performed outside of the usual course of the company’s business and (3) the individual is engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.   It doesn’t matter that the individual agreed to be an independent contractor or even signed a contract that said that the person would be an independent contractor and not receive benefits.

The Massachusetts Wage Act allows an individual to bring a claim for damages for the loss of wages and benefits where the worker has been misclassified as an independent contractor.  In 2009 the Commonwealth’s highest court reviewed the Massachusetts independent contractor law and decided in Somers v. Converged Access,  that: “An employee misclassified as an independent contractor, as a matter of law is an employee; his contract rate is his wage rate; and his “damages incurred” equal the value of wages and benefits he should have received as an employee, but did not.”   The Court found that employers who misclassify an employee as an independent contractor are not entitled to show that the company would have paid the employee less if it had known that he or she was not an independent contractor.

Independent contractors typically do not receive vacation pay, sick pay, holiday pay, or health insurance and they bear the burden of the self employment tax.  This can add up to substantial dollars.  If an employee is misclassified as an independent contractor, under the Massachusetts independent contractor law that individual can seek reimbursement of these benefits in court.  Moreover, Massachusetts law provides that if the individual prevails in court on the claim, the court must award “treble” or three times the damages.

For a free consultation, please contact Attorney Maura Greene, Law Office of Maura Greene, Six Beacon St., Suite 205, Boston, MA 02108, at 617-936-1580.

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