Am-I-An-Employee-Or-Independent-Contractor.jpg (2149×1159)If you have been in the working world any length of time, there is no doubt you have heard the term ‘independent contractor’ used. The majority of the country’s workforce are classified as employees, rather than independent contractors. Simply put, that means that they report to a particular location(s) at a set time determined by the employer and perform work for the employer as outlined in their job description. Sometimes the delineation between roles can be a gray area, so the IRS puts forth guidelines to help figure out where you fall in the independent contractor vs. employee ruling.

Despite the guidelines from both the State of California and the IRS, there is no definitive, clear-cut answer to each situation. There are some IRS “Common-Law Rules”that make it easier to help figure out your status. If the employer can control what you will do and how it will be done, then, according to the IRS, you are classified as an employee. This rule doesn’t mean that your employer or a supervisor must hand-hold you through every step of your job. If you are experienced in your field, giving you some latitude to make decisions or close deals does not negate the fact that you are still doing what your employer has told you to do.

If you don’t enjoy reading through the legalese of the IRS website, there is a very well explained article here that puts out in relatively plain English what the rules and guidelines mean to you and your employer.

The key word in determining independent contractor status is “independent.” As an independent contractor, you cannot be directed how to perform your work or when to do it. The only control the employer has over an independent contractor is the result of the work. As an example, a home builder subcontracts out the drywall installation to an independent contractor. The home builder cannot direct the subcontractor when to do the work or how to do it. He can give a deadline for the job’s completion as part of the contract, and he can require the work to pass his own quality control standards.

Another key determinant of independent contractor status is that the contractor does not provide an essential service to the employer. If the contractor is completing a one-time project or assignment or providing a non-essential service, then they are more likely to be classified as an independent contractor. Additionally, if the independent contractor’s sole or a majority of income comes from one employer, then it is likely that the independent contractor status will be denied.

If all else fails and determination cannot be finalized by either you or the employer, the IRS (of course) has a form to help. The SS-8 can be filed by either the employer or the employee/independent contractor to have the IRS rule on the individual’s status. The IRS and state are very concerned with this issue because of the tax liabilities involved. An employer-employee relationship works under an entirely different set of rules regarding what the employer and the employee must pay in income taxes than does an employer-independent contractor relationship.

That being said, it is in your best interest to make sure you are declaring the correct status. If an independent contractor status is denied by the IRS, the financial impact can be severe when retroactive FICA and state income taxes become due. Another important difference between an employee and independent contractor status is the fact that independent contractors aren’t protected by the same laws and regulations that apply to employees.

Independent Contractors are not;

Enlisting the help of a trusted partner with the experience dealing with employment issues is vital.

Employer/employee relationships and responsibilities are an ever-changing field, laws are continually being updated, modified and added.  Most times a Human Resources Professional needs help steering clear of potential missteps.

The professionals at Aiman-Smith & Marcy are able to help you if you have any questions about your classifications.. Please contact us with any concerns or questions you may have.

Leave a Reply

Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986