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Do I need to give thirty days notice?

Laguna Beach, CA |

I am an independent contractor who signed an agreement stating that I would give 30 days notice prior to quitting, otherwise I may be subject to recourse of loss of wages. I quit yesterday, after working 1 week. Can I quit under the "at will" law or will I be subject to loosing pay?

Attorney Answers 2


  1. It is not possible to tell without having more facts and without having read the agreement which you signed. The broad question is whether you were an independent contractor or an employee. At will employment applies to employees, not to independent contractors. If you are truly an independent contractor, the contract controls. If you did not perform the work required, you would not be entitled to receive pay.

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.


  2. "Wages" are what an employer pays to an employee, not what a business pays to an independent contractor. If you are an independent contractor, the terms of the contract control, unless it is against public policy. If you are an employee, then you cannot forfeit any pay for work you've already done, and your employer may not require you to give notice of 30 days or even 30 minutes. Workers are either employees or independent contractors by law based on the circumstances of their employment. An employer cannot turn an employee into an independent contractor simply by calling the employee an independent contractor.

    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)

    twitter.com/MikaSpencer *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

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