The Cost of Doing Business - much less than being sued!
By now I hope you have gleaned a few things about me and Pro Equine Grooms - that I am full of useful and sometimes not so useful information, and that I will walk to the ends of the Earth to make sure Grooms are treated legally and fairly in their jobs!
In making this happen - there is a LOT of information to get out to you guys. Job listings, grooming articles, collaborations with the Vet and Farrier, and the crazy informative and sometimes scary series of employment issues. Thanks to Marcia Hancock of the Job Search Advisor for her help on the employment issues series of articles!
Well, I never thought this day would come….all of our hard work on employment issues can be seen in action in a recent court case. Here’s the summary of the case: A young Groom, working as an Independent Contractor, was injured on the job. Both she and her employers agreed that she was an Independent Contractor. Her classification prevented her from receiving help from worker’s compensation insurance, which would likely have helped with medical bills and missed paychecks.
This Groom decided to sue her employer for a myriad of things, including fraud, unsafe working conditions, and failure to secure worker’s compensation insurance. The courts found in her favor because she was legally an employee, regardless of what she and her employer had agreed upon. She was awarded $274,000, and the amazing thing is that the jury took three hours to decide this. (Not a whole lot of deliberation there…). The farm also now runs the risk of being investigated by the IRS for back payroll taxes and penalties.
Moral(s) of this story - accidents happen. Your decision to hire or work as an independent contractor is not up to you, it’s up to the courts and the IRS. If you are hired off the books, your choices are very limited if an accident should happen. You do have the option to sue your employer, but can you afford to do this?
For the employers out there, if you hire someone off the books or mis-classify them, can your business risk taking a $274,000 hit (or more when the state, DOL, and IRS get involved?)
I can only imagine that most horse businesses can not afford to defend, much less pay a judgement, in such a case. It’s time for everyone in the horse business to take notice here. Employers need to realize that times are changing. You are not exempt from the laws that govern hiring employees because you are in the horse business. I think everyone can understand that money can be tight. Horses and clients come and go, and it’s not a steady income type of industry to work in. That part stinks, and stinks big. But hiring your Grooms legally and classifying them correctly and paying hourly wages with overtime is a cost of doing business, just like gas for the trailer or the hay bill. In the long run, you will be protecting your business, your own paycheck, your clients, your farm, your reputation, and your Grooms and other workers.
For you Grooms out there, I can only hope that none of you ever get injured on the job. I can also hope that you will think long and hard about a job offer that doesn’t play by the rules. I know jobs are hard to find. I know good horse jobs are harder to find. Why on earth pass on one?? Because you may find yourself in a giant canoe going upstream in a manure river without a paddle. Please protect yourself and make sure it’s “by the books”.
FYI - I found out about this case from Equestrian Professional, here is the link to the complete article on that website. This article also explains the court case in greater detail.