Photo of Professionals at McConnell Wagner Sykes + Stacey PLLC

Are you really an independent contractor? The DOL’s 6-factor test

Determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee is crucial for businesses and workers. The Department of Labor (DOL) has established a six-factor test to help identify the true nature of a working relationship.

Misclassification can lead to legal and financial consequences, making it essential to understand these factors.

1. The nature and degree of control

This factor examines how much control the employer has over the worker. An independent contractor is typically free to determine how, when and where they perform their work. If the employer dictates these aspects, the worker might be considered an employee.

2. The opportunity for profit or loss

Independent contractors can usually make a profit or incur a loss based on their managerial skills. This could include hiring helpers, purchasing materials or deciding which contracts to accept. Employees, on the other hand, generally receive a fixed wage or salary.

3. The amount of investment

An independent contractor often invests in the equipment, tools and materials needed to complete their work. They might also have business expenses and operating costs. Employees typically use the employer’s resources and do not make significant investments in the work.

4. The permanency of the relationship

The duration of the working relationship is another critical factor. Independent contractors are usually engaged for specific projects or periods. If the work arrangement is indefinite or ongoing, it might indicate an employee relationship.

5. The degree of skill and independent initiative

This factor looks at the skill and initiative required for the work. Independent contractors often bring specialized skills to a project and can market their services to multiple clients. Employees are usually trained by the employer and perform tasks as directed.

6. The extent to which services are integral to the employer’s business

If the services provided by the worker are a key aspect of the business, this can suggest an employee relationship. Independent contractors typically perform tasks not central to the business’s primary operations.

Understanding these six factors can help clarify whether workers are independent contractors or employees. Both employers and workers should carefully consider these criteria to ensure compliance with labor laws and avoid potential disputes or penalties.