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Independent contractor falsification?

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  • Independent contractor falsification?

    Hi all.

    I have become consumed with an issue after I left a taxi company last year (July of 2012): a suburban taxi company outside of Oakland [**name of company deleted by moderator**] hired me as an 'independent contractor' (yes, a written contract stated the relationship as such). I figured that, not being a city service where cabbies rely mainly on being flagged down on the streets, we would mainly get our work through the dispatching from the office (hence, no true 'freedom'). Moreover, they provided a car which I could often hold onto overnight (I lived in [**city deleted by moderator**] ), facilitating airport assignments for the following morning.

    However, I quickly became infuriated with the way they bullied me in an 'impersonal' manner. I don't require flowery pleading, but they often sent texts with instructions (an 'order', essentially), even after working over 12 hrs (with a few hours of sleep overnight; my unofficial shift was 6pm to the following morning around 9am, pending the morning work). If they couldn't reach me - the independent contractor - they came to my home (at 7am one time!) and knocked on the door, somewhat reprimanding me that I have to answer (I didn't purposely ignore the calls; I happen to have lived in a region with many 'dead spots' for cellular service). They would track us on their Zoombak GPS system (thus they could spot the cab if they were worried only about that), and outright ask us "where are you going? You have to stay at the BART" (that is the train station). HAVE TO??

    As the months went by, it occurred to me maybe they are in violation of something which the Labor Dept and/or IRS stipulates. I realize under these circumstances one can always claim they always 'asked' if we could do the work, and I realize the Labor Dept. and/or IRS isn't going to place significance on whether they said 'please' (lol). I underook some research and it is clear they are indeed in violation of what the IRS and Dept of Labor (the Bureau of Field Enforcement, specifically) stipulate as what determines whether one is an independent contractor or employee (if one is an independent contractor, the company cannot exact direct control over the nature of how the work gets done hour-by-hour, only the overall assignment - yet they invariably gave us 'orders' and pressed over what we could or could not do). Once I simply went home, figuring if they needed help with work I would be prepared to answer; he called me and yelled at me "why does the customer not see you?". He assumed I knew that I was 'supposed' to go the train depot at all times when clear of work (or something along those lines), yet he never expresed that whatsoever! It's psychological bullying, really. But - I realize things can come down to interpretation and ambiguities. Many counter-arguments are, presumably, prepared in advance by companies.

    I feel strongly, overall, that I was treated like an employee who had to abide by rules, and in a couple of instances, was guilty of breaking some of their rules. But is that enough proof - my 'viewpoint'? Other drivers all agree they push and push and push - but just opine, "you have to push back". I also bring all this up because tehy are, in my view, very greedy to the point where they charge you mileage ($1 per mile, whether you have a fare or not) even if you are cancelled on (it was not uncommon that we would pay out of pocket upwards of $10-20 because a called-in fare had to cancel suddenly!). The IRS and Bureau of Field Enforcement seem to reveal that [**name of company deleted by moderator**] is breaking the law, hence they are minimizing their overhead substantially but still benefiting in practice with us treated as employees. There must be something that can be done. They also NEVER use their insurance, to my recollection, even if a mechanical failure occurs; in my case, they charged my half of a purported $1200 when the hood flew up on me while I was driving on the freeway. They claimed that the hood was not closed properly (Ford Escape Hybrid model) and the built up velocity of driving speed is what caused it to pop open (it was quite scary!). A Ford mechanic later told me they flat out lied to me; there's no way the hood popping up could be a driver's fault, even if he/she somehow tried to sabotage the car to do so! they never mentioned the safety latch! That I acquiesced is, perhaps, my naivete, thus a weakness they exploited.

    My first year with them (as of March of 2011 for that tax year), I did not receive a 1099 (I used the Square gadget for credit card payments, thus they seldom owed me money; they offered accounts to customers, a good way of making the affluent people feel important, and if the account amount exceeded the odometer read - $1 per mile - at the end of the shift, they would owe us the difference); the year for 2012 (I quit in July), they sent a 1099 revealing my income (viz, what their books have on record of what they paid me) as $700. They did not whatsoever pay me that much in 2012. It was less than $200; I am suspicious that there is a minimum amount required under state or federal law.

    I really want to take some action. I sent a form to the Bureau of Field Enforcement in Oakland, CA. The questions on the form were quite relevant, particularly how there were no standard breaks for lunch, dinner, sleep, etc. Maybe that's all I can do. I could think of more to ask.

    Thanks very much for any suggestions or help. James
    Last edited by dkstaub; 03-29-2013, 11:04 AM. Reason: Remove identifying information

  • #2
    If you feel that you were incorrectly classified as an independent contractor, you can submit form SS-8 to the Internal Revenue Service which will determine whether you were appropriately classified or not.

    Please note that, even if you were not an independent contractor, there's no law that requires an employer to be nice to you.
    I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!


    • #3
      Thank you for the input Marketeer.

      Indeed, I am guilty of exuding superfluous comments over a lack of what I deem 'nice' behavior, etc; I know full well employers and hiring companies need not be nice to us, and certainly never thought was a law which stipulated such. But I would like to simply point out that I would not be undertaking these 'investigations' if they had been more respectful to me (these small businesses should be more careful than, say, Goldman Sachs), however ostensible. If people 'tick people off' substantially, if you will, it can come back and cause trouble for the employers/hiring companies. I certainly wouldn't like it if those who I had hired - and had giving them some malarkey merely to circumvent some expenses - were inquiring to the IRS and Labor Dept., etc.

      I have recently come across the IRS form SS-8, and I just printed out and scrutinized it me then previous glances at it; it asks some questions which surely are determinate. I wonder if I'm ignorant to something regarding my curiosities, which have been piqued by my ire over the hiring company in question. I wonder because it is quite blatant that they are in violation according to state and federal standards. maybe they feel it just cannot be proven. I wonder how common this is - it seems to me it can be in a company's interests to classify workers as independent contractors, and if the question of behavioral practice comes into formal question, it just cannot be determined. Hiring people just cannot be that naive or audacious (can they?). Well, thank you - I guess I'll find out after submitting the form.



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