Independent contractors

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In Massachusetts, most people who work for others are considered employees by the law. If you are an employee, you have the right to certain benefits like the minimum wage, overtime, and earned sick time. If you are an independent contractor, you are not an employee. But, to be able to legally treat you as an independent contractor, your employer has to prove that your work meets a strict, 3-part test.

In this article, learn how to tell if you are an independent contractor and what you can do if your employer is misclassifying you.

Am I an independent contractor?

Probably not.

The law assumes that you are an employee, unless your employer can meet a strict 3-part test. All 3 parts must be true to allow your employer to legally treat you as an independent contractor. If any of the 3 parts is not true, you are an employee. 

You may be an independent contractor if you are:

  1. Free to control your own work and how you do your work, and
  2. Working for a business that doesn't normally do the kind of work you are doing, and
  3. You regularly work independently, doing the kind of work you are doing for the business.

You are not an independent contractor if your employer supervises your work and requires you to follow directions for how you do your work.

You are also not an independent contractor just because your employer:

  • requires you to sign an agreement calling you an independent contractor, 
  • gives you a 1099 instead of a W-2, or 
  • does not withhold taxes from your pay or provide you benefits.

In Massachusetts, you can be an employee regardless of how long you worked for the employer. 

Do I have to pay for my tools and other equipment?

If you are not an independent contractor, your employer may not take money from your pay for its own business expenses. This includes tools, supplies, materials, insurance, and other business costs. In some cases, your employer must also reimburse you for travel time and expenses if it requires you to travel to a place you don’t usually work.

Some employers call their employees “independent contractors” so they can save money. If your employer says you work independently, they can say that you need to pay for the tools you use and other business expenses that they should be paying. They may even charge you “shift fees” for the right to work.

If your employer is making you pay for things you should not be paying for, call the Attorney General's Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465 or file a complaint online.

What can I do if my employer is misclassifying me as an independent contractor?

Call the Attorney General's Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465 or file a complaint online.

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Massachusetts Attorney General's Fair Labor Division

U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division


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