Idaho Courts’ approach to determining whether or not a worker is an independent contractor or an employee is much like Juliet pondered: “What’s in a name? That by which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Simply because an employer designates a worker as an independent contractor, does not make that worker an independent contractor any more than the name of a rose makes it smell sweet.
In fact, the designated name is the least important item a court examines when determining the employment relationship. Courts immediately brush past the designation an employer provides. Instead, courts examine the nature of the relationship between the parties. The principal factor the court examines is the amount of control that an employer exercises over a worker’s performance of job duties. The more control an employer retains, the more likely that a worker is an employee, rather than an independent contractor.
An employer’s control is determined by the level of supervision an employer exercises over the worker. For instance, if the employer controls the manner in which a job is performed, has a requirement for specific hours a person must work or meetings that a person must attend, the employer is retaining a significant amount of control over the work. Conversely, if there is little supervision as to how the job is actually performed, or when, and the only requirement is that the work be completed, there is very little control retained by the employer. The less control placed upon a worker, the more likely the worker is a true independent contractor.
Examination of the employer’s control is reflected in Idaho case law as well. “If the employer retains the right to control and to direct the activities of the employee in the details of work performed, and to determine the hours to be spent and the times to start and stop the work, the person performing the work will be an employee.” State ex rel. Department of Labor & Indus. Servs. v. Hill, 118 Idaho 278, 283, 796 P.2d 155, 160 (1990). In Hill, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that simply because the employer called the worker an independent contractor, “we look not to the labels applied by the parties, but rather to the actual indicia of such a relationship.” Id.
While there are litanies of factors a court can examine, the most prominent is the level of control. In this instance, it is accurate that names do not matter; courts are only concerned about the actual particulars of the employment relationship. As Juliet pleads, “Romeo, doff thy name ....” Names do not matter; instead, courts focus on details of the parties’ relationship.