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Law Makes It Easier To Use Contractors During State Emergencies


Emergencies happen all the time, especially in Florida, where we tend to get hurricanes, which can lead to local and state emergencies. Of course, other emergencies happen as well, such as earthquakes or pandemics. When they happen, businesses can be short staffed.

Problems With Emergency Hiring

One of the reasons that businesses may be short staffed during an emergency isn’t actually lack of personnel or employees—it’s that the business may only need a few workers, for a short period of time, to deal with the emergency, or to provide needed goods or services to the public during the emergency.

Or, the business may be afraid that by utilizing independent contractors a certain way during emergencies, the contractor could then argue that they were in fact an employee.

With every new hire, or every contractor who now says that they were an employee, the business has more employees, and the more employees a business has, the more federal laws they may end up having to follow.

They may have to provide workers’ compensation and other benefits, even though they have no intention of retaining these individuals for the long term. So, the end result is—or was—that businesses wouldn’t hire people when they were needed only to deal with an emergency.

Law Makes it Easier for Employers to Claim Contractor Status

But the state has now changed that law, making it easier for a business to hire someone during a declared state of emergency.

The new law says that someone that is retained for the purposes of dealing with an emergency, but who may not be a full time employee, cannot use the fact that the engaged person was provided benefits, or provided work supplies, or given training, as evidence of an employee-employer relationship.

This is in recognition that in emergencies, businesses will often train people, or give them equipment to help the public, but at the same time, the business may disclaim the person as actually being an employee.

In many cases, the business may want to claim the person is an independent contractor, but the contractor will use the relationship between it and the business during an emergency, as evidence that the relationship was one of employer-employee. Under the new law, a contractor can no longer do this.

The exclusion applies to all kinds of actions, including employee allegations of unpaid wages, unemployment benefits, or violations of labor pools.

Only During Emergencies

Note that this law only applies during state emergencies declared by the state or the governor. That means it doesn’t affect any disputes between a business and someone else related to whether the someone else was an employee or a contractor, which is independent of any state emergency.

The law is expected to assist businesses in emergencies, but contractors who are expecting to be treated as employees should be aware that their status during a state emergency may vary.

Call the West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today if you have a question about any employment law related matter.




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