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Employee or Independent Contractor

By Lane V. Erickson, Attorney

It may be surprising to know that many people who are working a job really don’t know whether they are an employee or not. They may think that they are an independent contractor, but may not actually be one according to the law.  In Moore v. Moore, the Idaho Supreme Court provided some specific guidance on whether a person is in fact an independent contractor or not. Here are the 4 factors the Courts used in its decision.

The first factor that the Court examined was whether there was direct evidence of the employer’s right to control the time, manner, and method of the work. In analyzing this factor, the Commission found that Claimant generally controlled his own work. The Commission analyzed the period of time from the late 1990’s until 2008, and found that at all times before and after the accident, Claimant was an independent contractor who controlled his own work. Moore v. Moore, 152 Idaho 245, 249, 269 P.3d 802, 2011 Ida. LEXIS 12 (Idaho 2011). Shriner v. Rausch, 141 Idaho 228, 108 P.3d 375 (2005), does not stand for the proposition that the Commission cannot consider the course of dealings between the parties when conducting its analysis. Importantly, the Court in Shriner never indicated that the course of dealing could not be considered, but only that the course of dealing did not change the result in that case. If anything, the Court’s statement was an explicit acknowledgement that the course of dealing was properly examined, but that such dealings either supported, or did not contradict, the Court’s ultimate conclusion. Moore v. Moore, 152 Idaho 245, 250, 269 P.3d 802, 2011 Ida. LEXIS 12 (Idaho 2011).

The next factor that the Court analyzed was the method of payment. The Commission found that every entry in Moore Enterprises’ books for more than a year before and after the accident demonstrates Claimant was always paid as a separate business for work he performed for Moore Enterprises. The Commission also noted Moore Enterprises’ books showed that another employee was properly identified for tax withholding even when that employee had earned as little as $200 in one year and, thus, if Claimant’s status as an independent contractor was to have changed, it would have been reflected in Moore Enterprises’ books. Moore v. Moore, 152 Idaho 245, 251, 269 P.3d 802, 2011 Ida. LEXIS 12 (Idaho 2011).

The third factor the Court considered was which party was responsible for furnishing the major items of equipment. The Commission found that the major item of equipment used in both Moore Enterprises’ and Claimant’s businesses was a regrooving machine, and that Claimant and Moore Enterprises each owned one. The Commission went on to find that, although Moore Enterprises owned the truck, trailer, and jack that were used on the day of the accident, such fact was of de minimis importance given that the sales trips, such as the one they planned to go on the day of the accident, were typically joint ventures. Moore v. Moore, 152 Idaho 245, 252, 269 P.3d 802, 2011 Ida. LEXIS 12 (Idaho 2011)

The last factor considered by the Court was the right to terminate the relationship at will and without liability. The Commission found that analyzing whether either party had the right to terminate the employment relationship at will was a neutral factor because the issue of whether the relationship was an at will employment relationship, or involved independent businesses in a joint venture, was not adequately addressed by the facts in the record. The Commission pointed out that the record did not contain a written employment agreement or joint venture agreement. Moore v. Moore, 152 Idaho 245, 253, 269 P.3d 802, 2011 Ida. LEXIS 12 (Idaho 2011)

With these factors in mind, both employers and individuals can evaluate whether they are independent contractors or not. If you have any questions, you should seek advice from qualified attorneys who can help you.

If you have any questions about whether you are an employee or an independent contractor, call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Employment Law attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lve@racinelaw.net. We will answer your Idaho Employment Law questions and will help you solve your Idaho Employment Law problems.

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