Startups Face Legal Action for Treating Contractors Like W2 Employees

Lawsuits against companies for a lack of distinction between contractors and employees are rampant. Startups especially are currently under fire for treating 1099 contractors like W2 employees, but without the benefits.

employee or independent contractorCompanies (especially startups) prefer to hire contractors in order to save money. This distinction also releases companies from any legal liability for workers. For example, an Uber driver hit a passenger in the face with a hammer last year, but Uber refuted liability because the driver is technically a contractor.

Hiring 1099 contractors may help a company save money, but the practice is highly unfavorable to workers.

1099 Contractor vs. W2 Employees

The biggest difference between 1099 and W2 workers is W2 workers are told what to wear, how to look, or where to go. 1099 workers have full control over their work and their contract. 1099 workers can’t hold a contract for longer than six months, and they can break the contract at any time.

Some companies consider their 1099 contractors entrepreneurs. Workers who drive the mega buses full of Silicon Valley employees work under a third-party company, and therefore receive no benefits or wages. Companies under this mantra will also refuse overtime pay and compensation for gas.

Companies like Uber will even go as far as to declare their contractors “customers.” They consider drivers “independent business owners,” who use Uber’s app to make money, while Uber takes a cut.

In contrast, W2 employees receive job stability, salaries, benefits, overtime, and compensation if the job requires driving long distances. Most importantly, companies with W2 employees are legally responsible for their actions.

Misclassification Lawsuits

Startup companies Uber, Lyft, Handy, Homejoy, and Instacart have all been sued by workers claiming they treat them as employees, but are compensated as 1099 contractors. The workers claim the companies control their working lives as if they are W2 employees and so the workers demand the same type of compensation.

Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan takes on companies like these with class action lawsuits. In the past, she went after strip clubs for classifying their dancers as contractors. They receive no wages, benefits, and are forced to hand over a portion of tips to bouncers. Dancers in the strip club King Arthur even charged them $35 per shift and took 30 percent of the money made from private dances.

This type of lawsuit is a misclassification suit: a contractor does the job as an employee, but does not receive the same benefits a W2 employee would.

If given the option between a 1099 or a W2 contract when entering a job, 1099 may seem more favorable. Sure you’ll receive a bigger paycheck, but you will owe higher taxes. In addition, technically being an employee means benefits, salary, and often a pension. You are also protected under nondiscrimination laws, unlike 1099 contractors.

Six Officers Charged in the Murder of Freddie Gray

Baltimore Police Freddie Gray Case

The death of Freddie Gray was officially ruled as a homicide by Baltimore’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby. All six officers involved in the case will face criminal charges. They were quickly taken into custody following the announcement by the attorney’s prosecutor.

Even though the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop and question Gray, they did not have probable cause to arrest him. The officers made an illegal arrest.

Footage that caught the arrest on tape showed the cops using profound force on Gray while leading him to the van. But the investigation revealed Gray was not injured until the ride started.

While in the van, Gray’s head struck a bolt that was sticking out of the wall. He hit the bolt so hard it broke his neck, causing the massive spinal injury. A law enforcement official reported that his injuries were like that of a car accident victim. The investigation also revealed the van made a stop at an undisclosed and unreported location before arriving at the jail.

Lt. Brian Rice, the officer who first made contact with Gray, was hospitalized in April 2012 concerning his mental health. He reportedly stated that he “could not continue to go on like this” and threatened to commit an act which has not been made public.

Each officer is facing specific charges depending on their involvement in the case. Here’s a breakdown of the charges that have been released:

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr.

  • Second-degree depraved-heart murder 30 years
  • Involuntary manslaughter 10 years
  • Second-degree assault 10 years
  • Manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence) 10 years
  • Manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) 3 years
  • Misconduct in office

Officer William G. Porter

  • Involuntary manslaughter 10 years
  • Second-degree assault 10 years
  • Misconduct in office

Lt. Brian W. Rice

  • Involuntary manslaughter 10 years
  • Two counts of second-degree assault Each has a maximum penalty of 10 years
  • Two counts of misconduct in office
  • False imprisonment

Officer Edward M. Nero

  • Two counts of second-degree assault Each has a maximum penalty of 10 years
  • Two counts of misconduct in office
  • False imprisonment

Officer Garrett E. Miller

  • Two counts of second-degree assault Each has a maximum penalty of 10 years
  • Two counts of misconduct in office
  • False imprisonment

Sgt. Alicia D. White

  • Involuntary manslaughter 10 years
  • Second-degree assault 10 years
  • Misconduct in office

Bruce Jenner Highlights the Legal Struggles of Transgender People

Bruce Jenner has become the most famous American to date to come out as a transgender woman. Last week, the Olympic gold medalist and star of the show Keeping up with the Kardashians appeared for a groundbreaking interview with Diane Sawyer. During the interview, Jenner shed light on a few of the many legal struggles that transgender people in the U.S. face.

Bruce Jenner Transgender RightsGender identity discrimination is prevalent in the United States. In South Carolina, the motor vehicle agency has a new policy in place after a transgender teenager sued the state for discrimination and violation of her freedom of speech in a September lawsuit. Agency workers did not allow the teen, Chase Culpepper, to be photographed for their license photo wearing makeup. The agency supported its stance with a 2009 agency rule that did not allow license photos to be taken when a person is “purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.” Culpepper’s victory will result in license applicants to be photographed as they usually present themselves even if their daily appearance does not “match traditional expectations of an applicant’s gender,” according to court documents.

Despite eighteen states plus the District of Columbia having laws that prohibit discrimination against transgender people, most of the protection available for transgender people has resulted from court decisions that stem from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Constitution’s equal protection clause. The American Civil Liberties Union believes that the First Amendment, which protects the censoring of speech by the government, “should also protect individuals’ right to wear clothes or groom themselves in ways that express their personal sense of gender.

Updating Identity Documents

Jenner has decided not to share his new name with the public yet. In order to legally change one’s name, a court ordered name change is usually necessary.

During his interview, Jenner mentioned that he plans on changing his gender marker on his driver’s license. Changing the gender marker on a driver’s license is a process that varies by state. In some states a court order is required and a letter signed by a physician stating that the person has or is currently undergoing gender transition.  A similar process is necessary for changing birth certificates and passports. However, four states (Idaho, Ohio, Tennessee and Kansas) do not allow the changing of gender markers on birth certificates.

Students Are Jailed for Skipping Class in Texas School District

News recently broke that the Fort Bend Independent School District just outside of Houston has been incarcerating truant students. In Texas, students are forced to pay fines if they miss 10 or more days of school within a six-month period. Most of these students are of low-income families. When they fail to pay, they are taken into custody. These students in turn miss even more school once in custody, and some are kicked out of school because of the added absence.

student truancyOver a thousand teenagers have been incarcerated for truancy related charges in the past three years within the Fort Bend school district. Because of the recent revelation, the school district announced it will stop sending truant students to court while a review of the attendance policies takes place.

In addition to this questionable practice, the advocacy group Texas Appleseed discovered that black and Hispanic students were disproportionately sent to court for truancy charges.

Serena Vela, an 11th grader, was jailed for nine days for failure to pay truancy charges. She accumulated more than $2,700, and was unable to pay the fines. Once freed, she was kicked out of school for her added absences. A year and a half later, she works at a pizza place and still does not have her high school diploma. She is just one example of the harmful effects this attendance process has on students.

John Payton’s Strict Oversight of Truancy Cases

Judge John Payton oversees about 80 percent of truancy cases in Collin County. On average, he sends 45 to 50 students to adult jail each year. He claims sending students to jail is a wakeup call for them and will motivate them to stay in school. But if students are being kicked out for missing even more school because of incarceration, how is this helping them?

Payton himself he hasn’t even earned his bachelor’s degree, yet he is in charge of almost all attendance cases in Collin County. He claims that he keeps students under the age of 17 away from felons when he sends them to jail, but jail officials have said this isn’t necessarily the case. He also jailed a student for 11 days whose Facebook page revealed his posts about suffering from depressing, suicide thoughts, and pain. This student spent the whole 11 days in solitary confinement.

Due Process Violations

In Texas, an accumulation of absences is a class C misdemeanor. The charges are held before a “justice of the peace” and municipal courts. The judges in these cases are not required to have a law degree. Buzzfeed News interviewed over 20 families whose child was sent to jail under truancy charges. Not one had a lawyer, directly denying their basic right to due process. Every incarceration of a student without proper due process is unlawful.

Trial for the Dark Knight Killer Begins

Not surprisingly, James Holmes is using the insanity defense to escape life in prison. Unfortunately for him, two psychiatrists who spent 50 hours interviewing him concluded he was sane at the time of the horrific shooting.

James HolmesHolmes is responsible for the 2012 mass murder of an audience in an Aurora, CO movie theater. The rampage was during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. He is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 others, facing a total of 166 felonies.

Holmes lawyers do not dispute that he is responsible for the shooting. But they do argue that Holmes was in the middle of a psychosis episode when he opened fire on the innocent audience. The trial began in January, with 9,000 potential jurors summoned by court officials. The trial is expected to last another four or five months. It will be an emotional journey for the people who must testify and face the man who killed their loved ones.

Defense attorney, Daniel King, asked the jurors to remove sympathy and prejudice from their decision in his opening remarks. He told the jury, “You’re being asked to set aside fundamental human emotions…I don’t know how you’re going to do that, but that’s your task.”

District Attorney George Brauchler is calling for the death penalty of Holmes. If Holmes is convicted, jurors must decide between the death penalty or life without parole.

Does He Have a Legitimate Insanity Claim?

Despite being accepted into a prestigious neuroscience graduate program at the University of Colorado, Holmes has suffered from mental illness for most of his life. At 11 years old, he attempted suicide.

He is exceptionally smart; the program only accepts six students each year. Even after his arrest, he ranked to have a superior intellect.

Documents show during the time Holmes was attending the program, he reached out to the school’s psychologist for help multiple times. He consistently looked for resources to help or eliminate his condition.

Even though Holmes has suffered from mental illness his whole life, has a family history of mental illness, and documents prove his willingness to change, psychiatrists still deemed him sane during the shooting. How is this possible?

Four days after the shooting, a neurologist and psychologist came to visit Holmes in jail to determine his mental state. The doctor concluded the Holmes, without any doubt, was presently insane. He immediately diagnosed him with schizo-affective disorder. There is no doubt Holmes is suffering from mental illness. But the jury needs to determine if he was ill at the time of the shooting.

Was Holmes in the middle of a schizophrenic episode the night of July 20, 2012? Or was he just mad at the world; he recently lost potential jobs, a girlfriend, and his reason for living. Either way, his actions will never be justified. All we can hope, is the families affected by the shooting find some peace at the end of trial.