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Companies often mislabel employees as “freelancers” to cut costs. Workers are fighting back.

March 20, 2019

The difference between a freelancer, independent contractor, and employee, explained.

 

An editor at Epicurious seemed super excited last week when he announced “an amazing job” opportunity for a food writer on Twitter.

 

Except that the details of the “full-time freelance” job he described — being paid hourly for 40 hours a week with zero benefits — didn’t seem so amazing. In fact, the setup sounded illegal.

 

So did the details of another recent job opening on Medium, which sought writers to work full-time hours but as independent contractors.

 

Both job postings prompted viral outrage from journalists on Twitter, who accused hiring managers of trying to misclassify employees as contractors to avoid paying taxes and benefits.

 

Journalists reported both job postings to the New York Department of Labor; the agency now says it’s investigating the Epicurious job posting. It’s unclear if the agency is also looking into the Medium posting.

 

The entire back-and-forth on Twitter was quite remarkable, but not for the obvious reasons. Employers misclassify workers all the time, and yes, it’s illegal. They often get away with it because job candidates don’t realize what the labels mean and because the penalties for breaking the law are minimal.

 

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