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Independent contractors at Harvard sue to be considered employees

The benefits and pay between Florida individuals who are independent contractors and those who are employees is vastly different. While on an allegedly unpaid winter break vacation, one out-of-state woman's research on the subject led to a class action lawsuit. She is suing Harvard University for misclassifying her and others as independent contractors instead of employees.

The plaintiff is a massage therapist for Harvard University Health Services' Center for Wellness. During her research, she alleges that massage therapists fit the description of employees. Under Massachusetts law, for individuals to be classified as independent contractors there are three determinations. The individuals would have an unrelated business that is separate, they would not have a direct report and the duties they perform would not be part a regular part of business operations. The defendant must prove all three of these factors.

The lawyer representing the plaintiffs stated that there is a chance others have also been misclassified. The plaintiff stated that she hopes that all of the other people at Harvard who have allegedly been misclassified will speak up. Additionally, she stated that these individuals have been doing the same work, but they are not getting all of the associated benefits and acknowledgments as Harvard's employees.

The class action lawsuit is seeking benefits that are associated with being classified as employees, such as paid holidays, sick time, vacation days and the opportunity to take discounted courses. Harvard may have a hefty payout if they lose the case because it would be required to pay the reimbursements as well as three times the amount of wages owed. The woman is hopeful that the plaintiffs would no longer be considered independent contractors so that they would also have the opportunity to unionize. A Florida individual who questions his or her worker classification can consult with an employment law attorney to review his or her concerns and determine if there is a viable case.

Source: thecrimson.com, "Massage Therapist Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Harvard", Nathaniel J. Hiatt, Jan. 29, 2016

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