By: Brandon Loehle, Project Lead and Outreach Officer

How to learn what you are

Today’s world of work is filled with blurred lines. Freelancing platforms, the ‘gig’ economy, and other technology-powered trends have raised questions for some about what constitutes formal employment versus contractor work.

With many companies looking to trim costs or, in some cases, cut corners, understanding whether you are an employee or an independent contractor has become much more complicated than just looking at your job description. A deep understanding of your position and your relationship with the company is required to make this assessment.

This is why the Conflict Analytics Lab has created the ‘Am I an Employee or Independent Contractor’ tool, on our MyOpenCourt website, which is designed to help Canadians understand whether they are an employee or an independent contractor.

MyOpenCourt uses thousands of cases from Canada to determine what the outcome of your case is likely to be. This tool can be useful to anyone including employees, contractors, and employers.

Why should I learn whether I am an Employee or a Contractor?

1) Ensure you are getting paid what you are supposed to

Employees must be paid at least minimum wage according to the provincial standard, whereas contractors can be paid at any rate that they agree to.

Some companies may tell you that you are a contractor and pay you less, when in fact you are an employee. This is because being classified as a contractor is not as simple as your boss telling you that you are one.

Even if you sign a contract that says you are a contractor, you might still be an employee. Our online tool can help you understand what you actually are which may mean an adjustment to your pay or related benefits.

2) Protect yourself from government lawsuits

Employees, contractors, and employers all have different obligations when it comes to paying taxes. If you are misclassified as an employee or a contractor, or if you own a business and have misclassified your workers, you might not be paying the correct amount of taxes.

If you have been paying less taxes for years you may be liable to pay them all back. This could leave you open to costly and time-consuming government lawsuits.

Therefore, it is important to know, as soon as possible, whether you or someone you have hired is an employee or a contractor.

3) Understand the relationship you have with your company

Employees and contractors may be treated very differently by their respective companies. While employees are governed by the Employment Standards Act, contractors are governed by the contract that they sign.

For employees, this may mean becoming aware of your entitlements.

For example, companies that terminate or fire an employee may be required to pay them severance and notice pay. Many companies will offer an employee a severance package that seems enticing, but often this offer is much lower than what they are entitled to.

Employees should understand their entitlements to notice pay and severance. This is why we offer a free tool to help you with that as well.

On the other hand, contractors are not aided by entitlements in the Employment Standards Act. Contractors must look at the contract itself to understand what compensation, if any, they can expect if the contract is terminated.

 4) Ensure you are getting the benefits you are entitled to

 A contractor may only have the benefits afforded to them in the contract. Employees, however, are due many perks such as vacation, sick days, overtime pay, and more in accordance with your local provincial employment act.

Vacation on a beach

Just like minimum wage and severance pay referred to above, you may be due certain privileges as an employee that you aren’t receiving because you have been misclassified as a contractor.

5) You can find out for free in 10 minutes or less

Our tools allow you to gather very important information for FREE without spending hours speaking to a lawyer. These tools help you to understand what legal rights you have as an employee, a contractor, or a business owner. The information you receive will then arm you to take important next steps if warranted.

Some users may be able to resolve their issues by speaking to their employer or their employees/contractors, while others may need to seek the assistance of a lawyer.

In either case, you have nothing to lose! The tools are free to use, we don’t record your personal information and, if you might have a case, we can connect you with free legal help to get your case started.

How to use the tool?

Using the tool is as simple as going onto our MyOpenCourt website and answering all the questions to the best of your abilities.

Once you are finished, our tool will provide you with an answer based on a calculation from our self-developed artificial intelligence. The tool will also give you plenty of background information and related websites to help you better understand your legal rights.

Our tool may also be able to refer you to legal professionals if you require legal advice.