In today’s economy, employers are likely to hire or partner with people who are not employees; they may be independent contractors or freelancers. Often, these workers are less expensive to hire and give employers more flexibility with regard to staffing levels.

That said, the majority of workers at many companies will be regular employees. As such, it is crucial for employers to be clear on the protections and offerings to which employees are entitled under California and federal laws.

Protections for employees

There are numerous laws that protect an employee’s right to certain protections. Among them are:

  • Minimum wage and overtime pay
  • Meal breaks and rest breaks
  • Workers’ compensation insurance
  • Freedom from discrimination and harassment
  • Access to health care benefits
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Protected status as a whistleblower
  • Job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act

Contractors, freelancers and volunteers are not entitled to these same protections, which is why many employers find that it is easier and more cost-effective to hire them instead of employees.

Understand, though, that you cannot simply call someone a contractor or freelancer to justify withholding these protections. The worker must meet certain requirements to be considered something other than an employee, including having control over his or her work and the amount of time he or she will perform services for an employer. The elements to determine whether a worker is an employee in California were recently changed and are slanted toward classifying most workers as employees.

On the other hand, calling everyone an employee in an effort to be “safe” would not be wise, either, as you could wind up spending far more money and resources than the law requires of you.

To avoid any unnecessary expenses as well as the costly penalties of worker misclassification or employee rights’ violations, employers can discuss with an attorney and questions or concerns they have regarding their legal obligations. Doing so can help you protect your company, your workers and your bottom line.