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Seasonal employee or independent contractor? There are important distinctions.

At first it seemed like an ideal summer job. You were working on a construction site, picking up new skills and getting paid well to labor under the sun's rays. Enrolled in your university's civil engineering program, you thought that the knowledge you gained over the break's four months would transfer nicely to your classroom environment. Unfortunately, you had offered to work a late shift for a friend and followed it up with a morning stint the next day. You were more tired than usual and injured yourself on the worksite.

Two days after the trip to the ER, you return to work, bandaged but not broken. Rather than getting support from your supervisor, however, your queries on remuneration for workplace injuries go unanswered. Having reviewed our blog on Wisconsin workplace safety, you were aware of your employer's responsibility to maintaining a safe environment. On your own volition, you visited your own doctor, but who will cover the bills? The answer to this question can be found in the role to which you have been assigned: seasonal employee or independent contractor. If you have been misclassified as an "independent contractor," your rights may be impacted.

You're not an employment lawyer, so what is the distinction between these two categories and why does it matter?

Characteristics of independent contractors:

1. Independent contractors are in a business for themselves, maintaining invoices and records

2. May have more than one client

3. Provide their own tools

Characteristics of employees:

1. Act under the direction of employers

2. Receive job training from employee for specific task

3. Has schedule set by employer

Financial benefits accrue in companies that hire independent contractors to complete short-term assignments because principal employers may not be required to cover workers' compensation or employee benefits. This is why there may be more job opportunities for independent contractors. Long-term and seasonal employees are afforded different rights.

In many cases, seasonal workers are protected under workers' compensation due to Wisconsin's legal requirements for companies that post a minimum of $500 dollar profit every four months of the year. If your status as an employee has been misclassified, your medical bills may be someone else's responsibility. It is often helpful to seek guidance from an attorney to determine if you are entitled to compensation for your workplace injury.

It was an ideal summer job. You wanted to learn a lot about navigating the construction industry, not the legal one. We can help guide you through the legal realm as well.

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Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Associates, LLC
123 7th St S
La Crosse, WI 54601

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