It’s not unusual for an employer to call employees independent contractors when they are really employees. They typically do it to avoid payroll taxes and to try to get out of work comp claims.
We see this mostly with truck drivers, but it’s not limited to that profession. Recently a Chicago carpenter went through nonsense of trying to receive work comp benefits. He was called a contractor when clearly he was an employee. But because the employer called him a contractor the case had to go to trial.
The company did what most companies do. They had their employees sign agreements saying that they were independent contractors. The belief is that this will discourage claims or show that the employee agreed they weren’t an employee.
The reality though is that the “contract” is one sided because the employer has all the leverage and if they actually treat you like an employee, you are one. In this case, the employer assigned the contractor to a job site and went over the work he had to perform. They dictated his schedule to the point of where and when he would work. They could fire him if they wanted to. They provided most of the tools for the job.
The bottom line is that they had control over him. If you have control, you are an employer. Compare that to what a real independent contractor is. I had a leak at my house and called a plumber. They weren’t prevented from taking jobs other than mine. They provided all the tools. I asked them to show up at 9 a.m. and they told me they couldn’t make it until 2 p.m. They had to cut a hole in our wall to repair a pipe and even though I wanted them to fix the hole on a Friday, they had another job to work on and decided to come on a Tuesday.
An independent contractor works for themselves. Being called one or signing a document that says you are one does not make it so. The more control someone has over you, the more likely it is that you are an employee. This is true no matter what line of work you are in.
You can bet that if you did sign one of these documents and you get hurt while working, your case will be fought. That’s alright. We have the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission so these disputes can be resolved. If otherwise the facts are on your side and you have a good attorney in your corner, it will be a delay that will ultimately work in your favor.