Employment issues often crop up in unexpected times. Employees are sometimes ill-treated by their employers, causing them pain and dissatisfaction. Not surprisingly, employees who have grievances will often wish to enforce their rights. But they need to ask and understand the fundamental question: Who is an employee under the law?
Asking who is an employee under the law, is with good reason. Not everybody who claims to work for a certain individual or employer is able to claim that he or she is an employee of such individual or employer. In other words, doing work for someone doesn’t automatically make you an employee.
So who is an employee?
One dictionary definition says that an employee is someone who has been employed by an employer through a contract for employment. Another dictionary definition says that an employee has been hired by an employer to do a service for a wage.
In other words, the question of who is an employee is answered by seeing who has hired who.
An employer must have hired, or engaged, a certain employee. Such employment can be by written contract, or by oral contract.
Online contract of employment for freelancers and Mechanical Turks
There are contracts concluded online, in which individuals carry out tasks, for other individuals, for a very small amount of money. Those contracts are arguably employment contracts, within the scope of the law. And we can argue it this way:
- There is an employer — the person who advertises for a job
- There is an employee — the person who responds to the advertiser
- There is a contract — that the advertiser shall respond to the responder
- There is a hiring wage — which constitutes valuable consideration.
And so, this gives rise to a contract of employment.
Click — you’re now an employee.
Click — he’s now an employer.
Click — there’s now a contract of employment.
With an online contract of employment, it is possible for the “employee” to enforce his or her rights.
It also helps the employer, because the scope of work is defined. (What, your contract doesn’t define the scope?)
So if you’re thinking of getting work on GoGet or Upwork or Fiverr … you’re potentially an employee.
Of course, this blog isn’t legal advice, and you should let a lawyer have a look at the contract per se.
Who is an employee when temporary workers are provided.
In some cases, a person doesn’t get hired directly.
Instead, the person is engaged by an organization (let’s call it “Company X”) which then provides temporary workers to any hirer. (Let’s call the hirer, “Mr Hirer”)
The hirer, Mr Hirer, doesn’t sign any contract with the individual. Instead, Mr Hirer only pays Company X to provide workers.
So when Company X’s services are terminated by Mr Hirer, the workers’ services have not been terminated by Mr Hirer.
In fact, the workers are still gainfully employed by Company X.
Company X still has to pay whatever it had agreed to pay its workers.
To answer the question, of who is an employee in this case — the answer is to see, who is the employer.