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Is a builder an employee or independent contractor?

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  • Is a builder an employee or independent contractor?

    Claim: A builder in California is claiming that he was my employee and I underpaid his wages ($5,000.00)
    He also wants me to pay penalty of $252.00 per day for 30 days, that equals $7560.00
    I was called for a conference with the California Labor State Commissioner

    Summary of the situation
    -- I had a verbal agreement (based on time and materials) with a builder to remodel the deck to my house in California.
    -- This person has solicited himself to me as an individual contractor – he presented his business card stating that he provides construction services
    -- His phone that he gave me, has a voice message the states: "Builder’s name construction ".
    -- Apparently this person does not have a contractor's license
    -- He was in charge of his own time and schedule. He used his own tools of trade and hired and paid to his helpers.
    -- He charged me per hour and had a detailed daily journal when he put his hours and job description
    -- He prepared a detailed schedule of work and was paid consulting fee for making the schedule
    -- I trusted him with my credit in the local hardware store where he was buying all materials for the job he needed.
    -- I did not have construction expertise to supervise this person. I'm a software designer working full time. I was working at my company office in 50 miles away from my home while this person was remodeling my deck in my house.
    -- I paid him 175% over the originally estimated labor cost. Payment was done by my personal checks on about biweekly bases.
    -- He deliberately left the job unfinished.
    -- Since he left the job unfinished, I did not pay for his last two weeks of work.
    -- This person filed a claim in State Labor Commissioner office Division of Labor Standards enforcement. claiming that he was my employee. He is claiming more
    than $5000.00 underpaid wages and $7500.00 penalty

    -- Does a person that was rebuilding my deck have legal bases to claim that he was my employee? Does hourly pay transition this person to employee status?
    -- If he is not employee, is it Labor Commissioner's responsibility to deal with this issue?
    -- What other legal steps this person could take?
    -- What legal steps can I take against This person to use it as leverage against his actions

    What would you suggest to do?
    Your suggestions are much appreciated.

  • #2
    Employee vs. Independent Contractor

    What a sleaz! First of all, this person sounds slick. You may wish to consult with an attorney before he files other "employment" related complaints. Second, make sure that you are prepared with as much documentation as you can. For example, his business card will help. Also, did he solicit any of your neighbors? If he did, ask them to attend the hearing or get witness statements from them. Even if you have documentation showing the times and dates of all of your conversations, etc. will help.
    Lillian Connell

    Forum Moderator


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