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Crowdsourced Workers: Are They Employees or Independent Contractors?

When you crowdsource someone’s time – are they your employee or are they more of an independent contractor? Or, to put it more in line with the lawsuit Christopher Otey v. Crowdflower, Inc., does your company need to pay them a minimum wage? Modern innovations such as crowdsourcing has opened up new and unexplored legalities with hiring, paying ,and understanding exactly who qualifies as an employee. As this article on Barger & Wolen explains, the legal matters of crowdsourcing may determine the future of business: As a legal matter, it may be an open question whether crowdsourced workers will be deemed employees or independent contractors; the answer will largely depend upon the facts developed in discovery. The various federal and state tests for employee and independent contractor status tend to involve the weighing of multiple factors, though often the central question is the right of the principal to control the worker’s method and means of achieving the results of the relationship. This makes it difficult to predict results. If crowdsourced workers are indeed seen as employees, crowdsourcing providers will be required to pay them a minimum wage – and that can certainly change the end cost of business consumers. The lesson here, it seems, is simply that organisations cannot simply assume their crowdsourcing solution will always be viable (or cost-efficient). Keeping a constant watch on how the law is changing innovation is important, as it can save you from (at the worst) disruption and (at the very least) headaches.

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