Workplace laws do not cover independent contractors, part-time workers

The Madison County Record Aug. 24, 2008, 9:00am

As corporate America has downsized, a growing number of employees who lost their jobs have discovered the benefits of working as "independent contractors." They appreciate the freedom that comes with being their own boss as well as the opportunity to make good money.

But from a legal standpoint, are they protected by workplace laws? The answer is no.

Generally, independent contractors decide the hours they will work and how the work will be accomplished. They provide their own supplies or tools and usually do not rely on a single employer as their primary source of income. There is a general understanding with their employer about the work which will be accomplished.

The freedom comes with a price. Independent contractors are not governed by workplace laws because they are not considered to be employees. Employers are not required to provide them with benefits such as health insurance, vacation time or pension plans. Generally, independent contractors pay for these benefits themselves.

Another category of worker who is not fully governed by workplace laws is the part-time worker. If, for example, a part-timer works less than a certain number of hours, he or she is not subject to certain laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act. But like the independent contractor, a part-time worker may enjoy the freedoms that come with their legal status.

If you have questions or need more information about your legal status as a worker, consult with an attorney.

For further information about law-related issues, contact an Illinois State Bar Association member-lawyer in your area or visit

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