By: Nancy E. Joerg, Esq.
Most companies think of their websites as valuable marketing---a way to connect with customers, clients, and prospective business. Even if they use independent contractors, these companies usually do not picture an IRS Agent, an investigator from the Department of a Labor, an auditor from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, an official from the EEOC, a judge, et al scrutinizing the company's website to see how the company portrays its independent contractors.
THIS IS A HUGE LAPSE IN JUDGMENT.
FIVE BIG MISTAKES: Below I am listing the five big mistakes I have discovered over the years in evaluating clients' websites (the clients who are trying to use legitimate independent contractors---and who need to be ready to prove this valid relationship to the world):
Mistake #1: The website talks about guaranteeing the work of the independent contractor.
Mistake #2: The website proudly proclaims that the company trains its independent contractors.
Mistake #3: The website calls the independent contractors "our staff".
Mistake #4: The independent contractors are listed by personal name, job title, etc.
Mistake #5: The website explains that the independent contractors are carefully supervised to ensure the work is done well and up to the company's standards.
REVIEW YOUR WEBSITE WITH NEW EYES: Look over your website, with new eyes, if you use independent contractors. See if you have unwittingly described them as under your "direction and control".
Keep in mind that auditors and investigators in today's world often go straight to a company's website to learn whatever they can----and they do this BEFORE they initially contact the company to announce they are auditing or investigating the company on the independent contractor issue.
YOUR WEBSITE REPRESENTS "ADMISSIONS" BY YOU: Don't just think of your website as a pure marketing piece. It also represents public "admissions" by you, the company, about your working relationship with your independent contractors. Therefore, seek experienced legal assistance in reviewing your entire website for what it reveals about your independent contractor relationships. Ideally, your website should confirm that your independent contractors are NOT your employees.
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For assistance with websites, IDES audits, IDES hearings, and independent contractor agreements (or for consultations on limiting your liability in the use of independent contractors), contact Attorney Nancy E. Joerg, who enjoys a nationwide reputation in working with companies who use Independent Contractors of all types. Nancy Joerg can be reached at Wessels Sherman's St. Charles, Illinois office: 630-377-1554 or email her at email@example.com.