Are Your Home Health Contractors Actually Employees?
In the US in general and Florida in particular, it is a common practice to label home health care workers as independent contractors instead of employees. But, with the Department of Labor of the country concentrating its focus on whether such employees are being misclassified as contractors, many employers could soon end up in trouble.
In the US, the ‘economic realities’ test is used to determine whether an individual should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA. This test comprises a complex analysis of various factors, making it difficult to predict the legal outcome in advance.
While it’s a well-known fact that using ‘independent contractors’ is a standard practice among healthcare providers and agencies in Florida, this justification might not be enough under federal laws. Even if this practice has been going on for years in the industry, companies unaware of how stringent the economic realities test is might be in trouble. You see, no matter how common the practice is, if it isn’t compliant with federal wage and hour laws, your company may face legal action.
The nurse registry statute of Florida has, in a way, fuelled this confusion. This law deems many caregiver positions (such as home health aides, nurses, etc.) working for a nurse registry as independent contractors and not employees of the nurse registry. No matter how broad its scope, this statute cannot change federal law.
As a result, many such nurse registries in Florida have been found to have misclassified their workers, thereby violating federal wage and hour laws. Unlike what many healthcare agencies think, even written individual contractor agreements aren’t always enough in such cases.
There are several issues exposed in this regard in Florida. Healthcare employers may risk exposure by not paying their workers for overtime work. This may be for mainly two reasons: the employers may not have considered the worker as their employee or wrongly assumed that the worker was exempt from overtime. In addition, companies may face legal action related to issues like worker’s compensation, providing family and medical leave to qualified employees, participating in specific ERISA plans, IRS payroll tax implications, etc.
The misclassification of employees as independent contractors is also called payroll fraud. And with the increasing government scrutiny to expose such misclassifications, several Florida healthcare employers are at risk. But what can these employers do to avoid such implications?
Firstly, employers need to avoid the trap of following the long-standing practice in the industry of using independent contractors. Secondly, it’s essential for all healthcare agencies operating under this business model to continuously identify and evaluate the potential issues that might put them at risk. It’s also a good idea to get in touch with a lawyer to keep track of the latest legal developments to be on the safe side.
If you are working as a home health worker in Florida or any other part of the US, you are entitled to receive several benefits offered to regular employees, such as overtime pay, insurance, etc. If your employer denies these rights by forcing you to sign an independent contractor agreement, you can take legal action to protect your rights.
If you are in doubt about how to proceed, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a qualified Florida ERISA Lawyer. These professionals will be able to offer you the right guidance regarding the case.