I hired on as a helper to other contractors with a floor installation company. I never filled out any paperwork. As a 1099 contractor, I was paid by the hour. However, my duties performed were set by the owner, I was paid each week via check, by the owner, although he offered no overtime or benefits. I know I am not covered under the Civil Rights Act, but he emailed me after I refused to work for one day, until he corrected my last check , which I was never reimbursed; telling me I was fired. Also, he stated in the email that he was holding my last paycheck until he figured out how much I owed him for the money he lost the day I did not work. He owes me about $700. I have emails and record of my hours worked.
First Part of Question -- Breaches of Contract:
I am not sure how the Civil Rights Act figures into this.
However as a contract worker, you simply have an action against the contractor for money damages. He agreed to hire you and pay you for work done. Just because he thinks he lost money for you not showing up one day doesn't mean he has a right to set off that against money he owes you; especially if he can't figure out how much it is up to this point.
Regardless, if he has a setoff, you'd be entitled to know how much money he's actually out of pocket, not his projected profit off your labor. He has a duty to mitigate his own damages. And further, if he made a mistake on a prior check which he refused to correct, his breach may actually excuse all future performance.
The way it works in a contract scenario is different than employer/employee situations.
A contract is an offer and acceptance supported by mutual consideration. Thereafter, you have performance. Obviously payment is contingent on performance, and performance is also contingent on promised payment.
If you performed and he gypped you on a check, and refused to adjust the check or repay you for the time worked and billed for, that's considered a breach and may excuse future performance.
But there's another hitch in the law of subcontracting. That is if each performance is separate and distinct from the prior performance, then whatever was performed up to the date of refusal to continue working (the date you said you would not work because he hadn't adjusted), then the future performance issue doesn't matter. That would be a separate sub-contract.
So for example he decides what you will do and then you do it:
1. Job 1 -- lay linoleum at 1313 Elm St. So you go and do that job. Now you're owed X hours at $X.00 per hour.
2. Job 2 -- lay carpet at 1010 E. Sycamore St. So you go cut a rug and lay the carpet. You're owed X hours at $X.00 per hour.
3. Job 3 -- Install bull around tile job. So you go do the same thing, so many hours at so many dollars per hour.
End of week he pays you for Jobs 1 and 2 and part of 3. You want the other half of 3. He refuses. He then tells you to go do Job 4 at 2020 W. Red Oak Post Lane. You refuse because you haven't been completely paid up to that point.
Well if he loses money on the W. Red Oak Post Lane Job (Job 4), that's his problem. You didn't agree to do that job and you're owed money for part of Job 3.
That's where his setoff fails.
And that's why its risky to hire subs to do multiple jobs in the flooring business.
Second Part of Question:
Whether you qualify as a real independent contractor, or, your former contractor was trying to cheat the state and IRS out of their share of taxes.
If the only jobs you worked were work done for the contractor, and the contractor supervised the jobs, told you what to do, was responsible for your work, etc., then the contractor is not in a contractor/subcontractor relationship with you.
Your contractor is just your boss and your boss has probably violated both state and federal laws by paying you under the table. And probably owes a ton of back workers compensation insurance premiums, back withholding, back social security contributions, and could face a host of penalties and even jail time.
I don't know why you chose this method of being paid, but if your ex-contractor/boss did, he's in deep sh17 over it.
You cannot, I stress CANNOT threaten to turn him into the authorities as that's extortion and a crime in and of itself.
What you CAN do, and you would be best advised to do it: HIRE AN EMPLOYMENT/LABOR lawyer to handle this claim for back wages, benefits, etc.
A savvy employment lawyer can turn your ex-contractor's/boss's business into a big steaming toxic mess for him.
Many statutes provide for whistleblower rewards and attorney's fees for unpaid wages and that's what this looks like. Click on "Find a Lawyer" above and hire a lawyer. Most will not charge up front.
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