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Independent contractor status at issue in taxi driver case

Increasing numbers of people in New York find themselves working within the gig economy. Companies almost always classify them as independent contractors, which prevents them from enjoying the rights of employees. A case on the West Coast, however, presented an example of an appeals court overturning a lower court's ruling that a taxi cab driver was an independent contractor.

The appeals court sent the case back to district court for reconsideration because multiple factors in the work relationship pointed toward an employer-employee relationship. Even though the contract declared that he was an independent contractor, the court did not find that label sufficient to support the designation. The man had no control over the contents of the contract and had to sign it in order to work.

The cab company also possessed the right to end the man's job at will. In the court's view, this represented one-sided control over the relationship. Another important aspect of the relationship was that the man's work served as a crucial part of the cab company's business model. The company also provided the vehicle, dispatch and payment collection system necessary for the business to operate. These variables added up to a relationship that appeared controlled almost entirely by the company, and control plays a significant role in the legal definition of an employer.

A person who disputes pay, treatment, or job loss could talk to an attorney about rights to fair treatment or the recovery of damages. An attorney familiar with the laws governing independent contractors may be able to provide an opinion about how a company classifies a person's job. Misclassification could be an attempt by an employer to deny a person overtime pay or benefits. An attorney may also draft a formal complaint to a labor board and file a lawsuit to pursue a settlement.

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