Legal Rights for Freelance Workers: What You Need to Know
Anyone who has entered the exciting (and often unstable) world of freelance work has a pretty good idea of the rights they do not enjoy. Unless you are a full-time employee, a company is not required to offer you medical benefits, vacation time, sick time, or any other type of compensation apart from your pay. In addition, they will not pay employee taxes for you, which means you’re stuck with the full amount come tax time. You might be starting to wonder just why anyone would want to do freelance work, but of course, there is a tradeoff. As a contractor, you get to set your own wage (the client can take it or leave it) and the amount is generally accepted to be 2-3 times what an employee makes, minimum. You can also take vacation whenever you want and you have total control over which jobs you choose to take and which you turn down. Still, it can be a hard road, so you should know that there are laws in place to protect your rights.
For starters, you have all rights afforded you under standard contract law. Any company you do business with should provide you with a purchase order for your goods or services, at the very least, and many will draw up a specific contract. If a company doesn’t offer anything in writing, don’t take the job. This document is the basis for payment, and you need proof of hire just in case they decline to make payment within the time limit specified on the contract (which could range from immediate payment for services rendered up to 60 days, generally speaking). While most businesses will have a legal team in place to assemble such a contract, you may just want to have your own handy in order to afford yourself the best possible protection.
In addition, you should know that the length of contract employment may be limited. Vizcaino v. Microsoft (1996) or the “permatemp” case, as it came to be known, changed everything for temporary employees. Before this case, any employees not listed as full time could be kept in their freelance or temporary status indefinitely, doing the exact same work as regular employees but missing out on all the benefits (among them, employee stock purchase programs). After the ruling, Microsoft decided that no temporary worker could retain such employment status after 364 days, meaning that the company either had to terminate their services or hire them permanently. And most major corporations followed form to avoid similar types of lawsuits (since Microsoft had to cough up nearly $100 million).
You may not enjoy the same protection under the law as a regular employee when you choose the road of a freelance worker, but you do have some rights, and it pays to know what they are. Remember that there are going to be dry spells when you don’t have any clients knocking on the door, so act to protect yourself by ensuring that the work you are doing is under contract for payment and that your services are not being abused so that the company can utilize you in place of paying a permanent employee.
Jennifer Kardish writes for Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer. Our lawyers have experience with every type of personal injury and will fight to get you maximum compensation.
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