Are Freelancers Entitled To Sue Their Clients (Employers) For Wrongful Termination In California?

By: JML Law | June 26, 2018.
Are Freelancers Entitled To Sue Their Clients (Employers) For Wrongful Termination In California?

More than a third of the total U.S. workforce – 36 percent – are freelancers, and the number of freelancers in the United States is constantly growing. Being a freelancer has its own perks, and similarly, there are many advantages for an employer to be using the services of freelancers as opposed to hiring employees.

If you are reading this, chances are you are a freelancer yourself. And you are probably reading this because your client (or employer) has recently fired you, annulled the contract, or stopped assigning new tasks. And now you are wondering if this could be “wrongful termination” and if you are entitled to any compensation?

So are freelancers eligible to sue their employers (clients) for wrongful termination in California? This is the question our Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers from the JML Law is going to answer.

You may be able to sue your client for wrongful termination as a freelancer

Generally, if you are a freelancer, California employment law recognizes you as an “independent contractor” (also referred to as “contract worker” and “subcontractor”). Being a freelancer is basically owning your own small business (which can be your own services). In other words, California law treats you as a business, not as an employee.

And while the employment protections and obligations – the same that apply to employees – do not generally apply to freelancers and independent contractors, you may still be entitled to these protections, and may, therefore, be protected against wrongful termination, if your client (employer) misclassified you as an independent contractor.

Fact: Employers in California misclassify their employees as freelancers and independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and providing other employment benefits to the employee.

Are you a freelancer or employee under California law

Our experienced wrongful termination attorney in Los Angeles explains that lawsuits in which plaintiffs-“independent contractors” prove that they were misclassified by their employer are not unheard of. So in order to make the determination whether or not you can sue your client (employer) for wrongful termination, it is critical to determine whether you are a freelancer (independent contractor) or employee.

To do this, you may want to consult with a skilled employment law attorney, as making the determination can be rather complicated and the approach to determining your status will vary from one case to another. So despite what your “client” calls you, you may actually be recognized as an employee under California law without even realizing it.

In April 2018, Californian lawmakers signed into law a new definition of an independent contractor. In order to qualify as an independent contractor under state laws, you must meet all of the following:

  • You are free from the control and direction of the client (employer)
  • You perform work that is outside your client’s primary business; and
  • You customarily engage in “an independently established trade, occupation or business.”

If you meet all of the above-mentioned criteria, it means that your client did not misclassify your status when hiring you to perform work as a freelancer or independent contractor. It also means that you generally do not have the same protections as employees, and therefore cannot sue your client or “employer” for wrongfully terminating you.

Freelancers are NOT entitled to these employment protections

“What other employment laws and protections do not apply to freelancers?” you may be wondering. Our Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney has outlined the protections that generally do not apply to freelancers and independent contractors in California (we say “generally” because you can determine and negotiate the “rules of engagement” with your client when signing a contract):

  • Wage and hour protections
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Most anti-discrimination protections except protections against harassment and sexual harassment; and
  • Wrongful termination protections.

Again, do not jump to any conclusions just yet, let our skilled lawyers determine whether or not you are entitled to sue your employer for wrongful termination. Contact the JML Law for a free case evaluation. Call our offices at 818-610-8800 or fill out this contact form today.

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