If you work in New Jersey and believe you have experienced employment discrimination, you may be wondering whether you are eligible to file a claim under federal or state law. A worker’s classification as an independent contractor versus an employee can change the way that worker has access to legal protections, and most independent contractors do not have the same protections as employees. A Parsippany employment law attorney can answer your questions and can help you to determine whether you have an employment discrimination case.
In the meantime, it is important to know that federal laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination at work on the basis of sex, race, religion, and other classifications, yet not all workers are protected equally. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits workplace discrimination in broader contexts and offers more protections to freelancers.
Freelance Workers May Not Have Access to All Available Discrimination Protections
Freelance workers typically are defined as independent contractors rather than employees. The IRS explains that an independent contractor is someone who is self-employed, and who generally is not under the control of an employer with regard to how and when work gets completed. While freelancers by definition have more freedom to determine how and when they work, the fact that they do not have an employer-employee relationship also means that they may not be protected by federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination.
As an article in USA Today illuminates, about 14 percent of American workers currently describe themselves as independent contractors. Many federal laws that prohibit discrimination only protect employees (and not independent contractors). The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clarifies that, in order to be eligible for federal protections against discrimination, you must be
- an employee,
- a former employee, or
- a job applicant for a position that would make you an employee.
In short, independent contractors are not covered by federal anti-discrimination laws.
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and Freelancers
While federal laws prohibiting discrimination do not apply to freelance workers, the New Jersey LAD has broader protections. Like federal laws, the LAD only applies to employees, yet the definition of an employee sometimes can include certain independent contractors. Under Pukowsky v. Caruso (1998), New Jersey courts apply a specific analysis to determine whether an independent contractor actually is an “employee” for the purposes of protection under the LAD.
Business Consultants and Employment Discrimination Protections
In some cases, business consultants are in general more like employees than independent contractors. As such, business consultants in certain situations actually may be eligible for protection under federal law as well as under the LAD.
Contact a New Jersey Employment Discrimination Lawyer
It is important to speak with a lawyer to determine whether your work classifies you as an employee or an independent contractor. Ultimately, even if your work likely classifies you as an independent contractor, New Jersey law may still view you as an employee for purposes of protection under the LAD.
If you have questions about anti-discrimination protections in the New Jersey workplace, you should speak with a Parsippany employment lawyer about your case. Contact the Law Offices of Usmaan Sleemi for more information.