Can I be fired because I called-off d/t a medical emergency?

Asked over 1 year ago - Claremont, CA

I work as and independent contractor for a courier service. I work m-f delivering, must wear a uniform, have a scheduled start time (but no end time), no sick days, no insurance & no vacation (paid or unpaid). I have not missed a day of work for almost 2 years.

My mother (age 70) lives in another country & has been staying with me for the past week. She takes medication for a heart condition & this morning we were afraid she was having a heart attack. I called my boss to tell him I wouldn't be at work because I needed to go to the ER. He argued with me for 20 minutes saying I couldn't miss work, i was not entitled to a day off, I should have given them more notice, etc. Basically if I didn't come to work I was fired.

Can he do this? Now I have a $5000 hospital bill and no job? Help!

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Brad S Kane


    Contributor Level 19


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . There are several issues. First, you may actually be an employee, but misclassified as an independent contractor. For a summary of the issues relating to misclassification go to:

    Second, if you are actually an employee, there may be violations of the Family Medical Leave Act or California Family Rights Act, which allow employees to take unpaid time off to care for a close relative.

    Third, if you are actually an employee, you should be entitled to many benefits, including but not limited to unemployment benefits. Thus, you should consider applying for unemployment benefits after reviewing the criteria for determining whether you were actually an employee or independent contractor. You may also be entitled reimbursement of the employer's portion of your taxes paid as an independent contractor as well as reimbursement for expenses such as mileage.

    You can file a FREE claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or you should immediately consult with an attorney to go over the specific facts of your case.

  2. James Carl Eschen III

    Contributor Level 16


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Your employer would have very little chance of showing that you were not an employee. You dressed like an employee, you had a scheduled start time, you served your employer in a role in which an employee would serve, and he fired you for not showing up one day. You're an employee.

    Having said that, you only have the right to take time off to care for your mother, or yourself, if the company has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of you. I would doubt that would be the case. You may, however, have the right to obtain unemployment in that you left your position for good cause.

  3. Marilynn Mika Spencer

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I'm sorry to hear about your mother's health, but very glad she has a child who cares for her as much as you do. I'm also sorry to hear that you work for such a callous employer.

    If you really are an independent contractor, your employer doesn't owe you a thing. But you sure sound like an employee and not an independent contractor. If so, your employer probably owes you additional wages, unemployment and Social Security deposits, penalties and more. This can add up to quite a large amount. If you need attorney's fees to collect what is due to you – and most likely you will – the employer is also responsible for your attorney's fees.

    The general rule is that a person is an independent contractor if the employer has the right to control or direct the RESULTS of the work but not HOW the work is done or even WHAT work is done.

    Many employers misclassify workers as independent contractors and pay them as "1099 employees" when in fact they should be classified and paid as regular W-2 employees. Employers receive a substantial benefit from doing this, but there is NO benefit to the workers. If a worker is wrongly classified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, that worker will not be eligible for many benefits of employment or eligibility will be reduced. Areas affected include the right to:

    – be paid for all hours worked or controlled by the employer;
    – the legal minimum wage;
    – overtime pay;
    – rest and meal breaks;
    – workers' compensation insurance;
    – Social Security contributions;
    – unemployment benefits;
    – state disability benefits;
    – employer benefits such as vacation, sick leave, pension, medical insurance, etc.

    Also, in some states, including California, employers are subject to a penalty if they misclassify employees as independent contractors (see below).

    There are different ways to determine if a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Employers must comply with all relevant laws.

    FEDERAL TAX LAW: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) looks at three areas to determine a worker’s status:

    Behavioral Control – This area considers instructions and training. If the employer has the right to direct or control the work, even if it does not exercise that right, the worker is an employee. These instructions might include when to do the work, or how and where to do it; what equipment or tools to use; who the worker can hire or not hire to help get the work done; what supplies and services to buy, and/or where to buy them. If the employer trains the worker in required methods of doing the work or the procedures to get the work done, this is evidence the employer wants things done its way, which indicates the worker is an employee and not an independent contractor. Therefore, if the employer gives the worker detailed or extensive instructions on how to get the job done, the worker is probably an employee and not an independent contractor.

    Financial Control – This area considers who has the right to direct and control the business, not just the work. The more of a financial or promotional investment the worker has made in the work, the more likely the worker is an independent contractor. However, there is no requirement for an investment in order to meet the definition of independent contractor. If the worker incurs expenses in performing the work but is not completely reimbursed, the worker is more likely to be an independent contractor rather than an employee, especially if these expenses are high. If the worker has the chance to make a profit or loss on the work, the worker is probably in business for himself or herself and therefore an independent contractor.

    (continued in Comment below) *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the... more
  4. Kristine S Karila

    Contributor Level 16


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . In addition to the other responses, because it appears that you were an employee and not an independent contractor, your employer needed to provide your final paycheck on the date of employment termination. If you had to wait for it, you may be entitled to one day's pay for each day you had to wait PLUS attorneys' fees and if you ever worked more than 8 hours in one day or over 40 hours in one week, you may be entitled to overtime, interest, and attorneys' fees. If you feel you are owed wages or late payment penalties, call an employment law attorney or if you worked for at least 1 year for your employer and your employer had at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radious, contact an employment law attorney. 949-481-6909.

Related Topics

Independent contractor small business

An independent contractor is a person or business that provides goods or services under the terms of a contract or verbal agreement.

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