Are you an employee or freelancer? Many online platforms, such as Uber. Lyft. Handy, and Postmates, offer work with a proviso. If you take a job through one of these platforms, you agree to say that you don’t really work for them. You work for yourself through them. That distinction costs you — and saves the platform — a ton of money.

It means that the platform doesn’t have to pay employment taxes on your wages — you do. (That amounts to 7.65% of your earnings.) It means these companies don’t need to provide benefits, such as worker’s compensation and health insurance. Nor do they need to pay minimum wage or overtime. Estimates of the value of these company-paid benefits range from 20% to 40% of pay.

On the other hand, if you work for yourself, you have control over your hours and working conditions. You can work for as many or few companies as you like; choose to work in the midde of the night, or never on Fridays. You can work around your kids’ schedules; wear what you want; and reap both the risks and rewards of self-employment. If you feel exploited when you’re an independent contractor, you only have yourself to blame. Or so the theory goes.

Employee vs. freelancer “misclassification”

However, experts believe that some online platforms are playing fast-and-loose with the rulebook, claiming their workers are independent contractors when they’re really misclassified employees. That leaves workers with the worst of all possible worlds — facing higher expenses and risks, while getting ordered around by an app.

“It’s all about control,” says Todd M. Friedman, a Beverly Hills-based employment lawyer. “Are they setting your schedule, mandating the time you come in, when you can take breaks, the dress code? Or are you asked to go to a few meetings but otherwise set your own schedule?”

Wondering whether your job has been misclassified? Take our quiz and see.

1. Were you given job training, with an expectation that you would perform future job duties as you were trained to?

(a) yes (b) no

2. Are you penalized if you get your work done effectively, but in a way that deviates from your training?

(a) yes (b) no

3. Are you told where and what times to work?

(a) yes (b) no

4. Are you penalized if you do not show up promptly?

(a) yes (b) no

5. Does the platform have any say over the tools you use for work? In other words, can it decline your application based on the car you drive or the cleaning materials you employ?

(a) yes  (b) no

6. Are you required to wear a company uniform/t-shirt or emblem?

(a) yes (b) no

7. Would you be penalized if you did not wear that uniform?

(a) yes (b) no

8. Are you given instruction on where or what to purchase with regard to work-related supplies?

(a) yes (b) no

9. Are you evaluated on your performance?

(a) yes (b) no

10. Are these evaluations on whether you completed a job successfully, or on whether you completed the job following the company’s guidelines?

(a)  how the job was completed — whether completed via guidelines (b) whether the job was completed successfully

11. Do your evaluations have an impact on what the company allows you to do?

(a) yes (b) no

12. Are you able to seek out other business opportunities with multiple companies, including competitors of the company or companies for whom you work?

(a) no (b) yes

13. Do you, in fact, work with many companies in any given year, with no one company providing the bulk of your income?

(a) no (b) yes

14. Does the company pay your expenses, from tolls and fees to paying for mileage and supplies?

(a) yes (b) no

15. Are you paid by the hour or by the job?

(a) hour (b) job

16. Do you work under a written contract (which could be a site’s “terms and conditions”)?

(a) no (b) yes

17. Is there an anticipated end date for your work arrangement, or are you working for an indefinite period?

(a) indefinite period (b) working until a particular project is completed, though the time could be extended if the project requires more time than anticipated

18. Do you receive any employee benefits, such as health insurance or access to a retirement plan?

(a) yes (b) no

19. Is the service you provide a key element in the company’s business?

(a) yes (b) no

20. Can you turn down assignments without penalty?

(a) no (b) yes


Give yourself 5 points for every “A” answer; 0 points for every “B”. The closer your total score is to 100, the more likely you are an employee, rather than an independent contractor. Know, however, that the law governing this area is blurry. Tax law — the main federal gauge — uses a multi-faceted test that determines status based on a preponderance of the evidence. Some states apply more lenient — or more strict — guidelines.

Share your score

Want to see how other people’s scores compare to yours? Share your score and the platform you work with in the comments below.

We’ll publish all appropriate comments. But comments are moderated and edited for good taste. We do not publish those that include profanity or that insult other readers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link