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Need to Hire During a State Declared Emergency? You Can Do it Much Safer Now


The COVID pandemic shutdowns are, thankfully, behind us, but that doesn’t mean that the state is immune to emergencies. We are still in the midst of hurricane season, and that, as well as any other kind of emergency, can happen at any time.

The Problem During Emergencies

During emergency situations, businesses face a dilemma, particularly those businesses that assist the general public during emergencies. On the one hand, more staff is needed, to help those in need; you may remember how vital retail workers were during the COVID shutdowns, or how important contractors often are after hurricanes.

But on the other hand, many small businesses want to stay that way—small. Hiring more staff to help means more employees, and more employees means more potential liability, because the more employees you have, the more likely you are to have to abide by federal laws that have minimum caps.

For example, wage and hour laws, medical leave laws, or workers compensation laws, often are dependent on businesses having a certain number of employees. For small businesses, staying under that minimum provides a comfort in knowing they don’t have to comply with those laws.

What Do Businesses Do?

So in emergencies, businesses either do one of two things: they either don’t hire any additional employees at all, and thus, the public doesn’t get the help that they need, or else they hire people, but call them independent contractors, to get around these legal requirements.

New Law Makes it Easier to Hire Contractors

But as of last year, business can be assured that if there is, in fact, a state of emergency declared, and a person is hired for the purpose of helping, and if that person is hired as a temporary contractor, the fact that the hired person may be supplied supplies, training, or even was paid benefits—all hallmarks of a traditional employer employee relationship—that does not make the independent contractor, into an employee.

This gives business much more flexibility to hire and train people, and to call them independent contractors, and have them actually be independent contractors. The contractor cannot second guess the employer, and argue that the contractor is actually an employee, the way they legitimately could if there was no emergency.

This makes it much harder for contractors to make traditional employee claims, like Fair Labor Standards Act Claims, or claims for denied benefits. And it makes it much easier for businesses to classify these temporary, emergency-based hires, as contractors, and to do so legally and safely.

Bear in mind this only applies to emergencies; outside of state declared emergencies, the same rules apply, and you could find yourself in trouble for calling an employee a contractor just to avoid legal requirements that you would have with the employee.

Question about employees or legal problems with your business? Call our Fort Lauderdale business lawyers at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954-440-3993 today for help.




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