Equine Farm Workers: Employees or Independent Contractors?

Learn the difference between an employee and independent contractor and what that could mean for your equine operation.
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Equine Farm Workers: Employees or Independent Contractors?
Whether your barn workers are considered employees or independent contractors is a complex test of facts and circumstances. | Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
Whether your stable workers are employees or independent contractors can have a huge impact on your equine business. As an employer, you are legally required to withhold federal, state, and local payroll taxes, and comply with all employment laws, including laws relating to wages, hours, safety, working conditions, and immigration status. If employees are injured on the job, you could have legal liability for their injuries, and many states require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which can be quite costly. Further, you are legally responsible for what your employees do while they are acting within the scope of their employment. On the other hand, independent contractors are responsible for their own tax withholding and insurance, and your liability for your contractors’ actions is much more limited.

Whether your barn workers are considered employees or independent contractors is a complex test of facts and circumstances. Here, we examine the common law factors in the context of relationships between a barn and its stall cleaners. In each “A” situation, the stall cleaners are more likely to be considered employees, and in each “B” situation, the stall cleaners are more likely to be considered independent contractors. The more “A” factors a barn has, the more likely its stall cleaners will be considered employees. The more “B” factors a barn has, the more likely its stall cleaners will be considered independent contractors.

How does the barn hire its workers?

The contractual relationship between the parties can affect the determination of whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor, especially when the determination isn’t clear based upon the other factors.

A: Big Barn decides it needs help cleaning stalls, so its manager, Hapless Hannah, places a classified ad in the local paper. Larry Lieabout and Sarah Slacker answer the ad and accept Big Barn’s offer of full-time employment, with health-care benefits (yes, this is fictional). Hannah gives Larry and Sarah an employment agreement to sign

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Written by:

Rachel Kosmal McCart is the founder and principal attorney of Equine Legal Solutions, PC (ELS), an equine law firm based near Portland, Ore. McCart is a graduate of the Duke University School of Law and licensed to practice in four states: California, New York, Oregon, and Washington. She is also admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. ELS represents clients in litigation, helps resolve equine disputes, drafts customized equine contracts, represents clients in horse industry disciplinary hearings, and incorporates equine businesses. Learn more at www.equinelegalsolutions.com.

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