Can they deny benefits to "freelance" employees?

First, thank you for providing the opportunity to make the following
queries:

I am employed at a large law firm in NY. I am considered a “freelance” employee of the firm in the proofreading department. I am paid by check as all other staff and freelance employees are. I work aside, do the same work, and am responsible equally as all the regular “staff” employees are.

My question is: if I do all the same labor, have the same responsibilities, and work a regular shift with consistent hours as the “staff” employees do, am I not eligible for

a)health benefits;

b) sick days;

c) extra compensation for holidays;

d) vacation pay?

I’m disturbed by the fact that there are regular staff employees that receive all of the above benefits and I receive none.

The firm pays me the same way as everyone else. I am enrolled in a 401k plan through this firm. I am NOT paid as an independent contractor. I am paid the same as the regular staff with all the same deductions for taxes taken out of my paycheck. I have asked to be put on staff and have been denied more than once. I have made little profit in the three years I’ve been at the firm because of the cost of my health benefits. My performance has been good - there has been no insubordination, repeated lateness, or problems with behavior. I get along well with all of the other employees in the firm. All of my employee evaluations have been good.

Is this firm liable for lost wages/healthcare costs? Do I have a case against the firm? Should I try to negotiate with the firm? Thanks for your help and any information you can provide. If you need more info. Please ask me. I would be willing to pay $100 to $200 for a consultation.

1 answer  |  asked Mar 15, 2001 8:29 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
Casual employees may be able to participate in ben

Your question enters ground which has, so far, only rarely been tread on.

There is only one law that might help you, and I believed it is the same law which recently helped a fairly large number of "casual" employees working for Microsoft. The law is ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Although vacation and holiday pay probably would not be covered under ERISA, health benefit plans more than likely would be.

One key provision is that employees in similar jobs, doing similar work as employees receiving benefits under an ERISA covered plan cannot be discriminated against. You may be called a "freelance" employee, but if your job is more or less the same as other employees receiving health benefits, you might be covered by this ERISA anti-discrimination provision.

If you want to explore this some more, call me to set up an appointment.

Sincerely,

David M. Lira

posted by David M. Lira  |  Feb 19, 2001 4:12 PM [EST]

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