INTRO TEXT Employers may be keen to offload workers from their payrolls and contract for services instead (“Lone Rangers,” CW, Summer ’05). But recent cases suggest that companies can go only so far in treating workers as if they’re not employees.
In December, the Supreme Judicial Court upheld rulings by a lower court and the Division of Unemployment Assistance that a woman working at an Arlington nursing home as a franchisee of a Florida–based janitorial services company was entitled to collect unemployment benefits, and that the firm, Coverall North America, was required to contribute toward unemployment insurance. Coverall argued that the cleaner was an independent contractor, but the SJC ruled that Coverall failed to meet a three-part legal test to show that she was truly working for herself.
Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board has supported claims by FedEx Ground drivers in Wilmington and Northborough that they also should be classified as employees, not independent contractors. FedEx is appealing the decisions, but in November, drivers at two Wilmington facilities became the first FedEx Ground drivers in the country to unionize, voting to join Boston–based Teamsters Local 25.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Boston attorney representing FedEx Ground drivers in a multistate suit in federal court, says the cases show that “employers are going to be subject to real limits in their attempts to get out from paying employees what they’re owed.”