Recent lawsuits in Florida demonstrate complex law on employee misclassification

On behalf of Karen Amlong

Lawsuits against Uber and FedEx show how many companies attempt to classify workers as independent contractors to take advantage of a gray area of the law.

Florida law is complex regarding the classification of employees. Whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee is not always clear. This can tempt some employers to cross the line and classify workers as independent contractors, when all evidence suggests they act and work like full-time employees.

Classifying workers as independent contractors can save a business money on healthcare costs, workers' compensation insurance, and taxes. However, these savings can come at the expense of workers' wellbeing. It can affect the ability of workers to be protected under the state's wage and hour laws, for example, and can even influence discrimination and harassment lawsuits.

Whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor is an important question, one that has been at issue in Florida for decades. Employee misclassification cases are often litigated - at least a dozen cases involving well-known companies such as BMW, Super 8 Motels, Uber and FedEx are currently underway or have recently been decided.

For Florida workers, the lawsuits against Uber and FedEx are most relevant.

Lawsuits against Uber and FedEx illustrative

Recent cases involving Uber and FedEx are shedding light on whether drivers can be considered independent contractors or employees.

On May 21, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity held that a driver who was in a minor accident after he turned off his Uber app to pick up passengers was an employee, and therefore eligible for unemployment insurance after he left the job over the resulting dispute. The driver alleged that because Uber drivers "are required to follow a litany of detailed requirements imposed on them by Uber" they qualify as employees. Uber and other ridesharing services have faced numerous lawsuits recently regarding the status of their drivers.

Drivers are also currently suing FedEx. In federal court, the 11 th Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned a lower court decision, allowing drivers in a class action lawsuit against FedEx to try their case before a jury to determine whether employees or can be classified as independent contractors. The 11 th Circuit wrote in its decision that the FedEx Operating Agreement and FedEx's standard practices created a genuine question of fact under Florida law as to whether drivers were employees or independent contractors. FedEx drivers are required to follow a detailed list of procedures and are subjected to daily driver logs, among other requirements, even though FedEx classifies them as independent contractors.

Basic law on independent contractors

Generally, Florida law determines whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee based on the following factors:

  • The degree of control exercised by the employer over the worker
  • The worker's skill set
  • The duration of the work relationship
  • The worker's investment in facilities, including vehicles

Are you misclassified?

If you are currently incorrectly classified as an independent contractor, contact The Amlong Firm, an experienced advocate for employee rights, to discuss your situation and to explore your legal options. You may be entitled to back pay and other benefits.

Keywords: Employee misclassification, Florida employment law, independent contractor, employee rights, wage and hour violations.