There are a number of factors that courts consider to determine whether you are truly an independent contractor and not an employee. Some of the most significant are: whether you are free to take on other similar jobs with other companies, or limited to working only for this one company; whether you control your own hours of work, or are required to be present at specific times; whether you control the manner in which you perform your work, or whether you are required to follow specific directions and protocols from your employer; whether you provide your own tools or whether the tools needed to perform the work are provided by your employer. it sounds as though you may be properly classified as an employee, but this only could be determined by a thorough review by an experienced employment attorney. Misclassification of employees as independent contractors is one of the most common issues that result in court cases under state and federal wage and hour laws. You and your fellow "independent contractors" should consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
As for the differences in pay, if the pay increase is based on a particular set of skills (such as fluency in Spanish), then the pay differential is probably not unlalwful.
David Puryear is an employment attorney licensed in North Carolina with 30 years' experience representing employees in disputes arising at work. He also represents employers in these matters. His general civil litigation experience includes a broad range of business and personal cases tried to jury verdicts. The answers provided here are for general public service information only and are not intended as legal advice in a specific case or the practice of law in any jurisdiction other than North Carolina. You should consult with an experienced employment attorney near you to receive legal advice about your personal situation.
It sounds like your complaint is related to not being paid overtime. If you are truly an independent contractor, you are not entitled to overtime at all. If you are an employee, you may be entitled to overtime if you are non-exempt. I cannot determine from the information you provide whether you are an independent contractor or an employee. There are several tests that are applied which vary law to law, government agency to government agency and court to court. However at base, the issue is control. If a worker is sufficiently under the control of the company, then he or she will be considered an employee. If you are an employee, then we would have to figure out if you are an exempt employee who is not entitled to overtime or a non-exempt employee who is entitled to overtime.
I strongly recommend that you consult with an experienced employment attorney to help you sort this out. On a separate note, employers are not required to allow employees over 17 to have breaks.
Kirk J. Angel is an experienced attorney who focuses his practice on employment law. Mr. Angel, who has practiced employment law for more than 15 years, represents clients throughout North Carolina and more information about him is available at www.theangellawfirm.com This response is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Additionally, this response does not create an attorney client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer in your state who practices in the appropriate area.