Independent Contractor or? Dependent Contractor

Independent Contractor or Dependent Contractor


While many individuals are familiar with the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor, there exists an additional classification of workers known as a “dependent contractor” which has gained increasing recognition in recent decades.

A dependent contractor occupy a middle ground between an employee and an independent contractor, and their level of dependence on a specific client for income is a key identifying factor.

With the emergence of this new classification, it becomes crucial for individuals engaged in contract work to be aware of their rights, and for companies to understand their responsibilities towards contract workers. This article aims to clarify the distinctions among these three categories and provide insights into what contract workers and companies can anticipate in their interactions with dependent contractors.

Employee and Independent Contractor

Employees represent the most prevalent form of employment relationship within companies. They are entitled to a comprehensive range of benefits and are regulated by the Employment Standards Act. Employees are usually exclusively associated with one company and possess greater protections in cases of termination.

Conversely, independent contractors usually operate their own enterprises and offer services to various clients. Their earnings come from multiple clients, and they do not depend primarily on a single client for their income. In cases where the classification of a worker is uncertain, courts may review the language and purpose of the agreements between the worker and the employer to make a determination.

What is a Dependent Contractor?

A dependent contractor stand apart from both traditional the employee and the independent contractor, yet they occupy a space that bridges the gap between the employment relationship. These are workers who maintain an economic reliance on a specific company, although they are not classified as formal employees. Similar to an independent contractor, they offer their services to multiple clients. However, akin to an employee, the majority of their earnings are derived from a single primary source.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our Experienced Employment Lawyers

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1-800-771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.

Consider the example of a full-time graphic designer who operates as an independent contractor, catering to various companies. On average, this designer obtains 60-70% of their income from a specific client who consistently utilizes their graphic design expertise. While not technically an employee, the designer is financially tied to this client. If the contract with this client were to cease, the graphic designer would encounter significant financial risk.

The crucial distinction arises from the fact that, unlike the independent contractor who might experience a modest impact from losing a client responsible for around 7% of their income, a dependent contractor relying heavily on a single client for the bulk of their earnings would face considerably more severe repercussions if that client were lost. The degree of control they have is limited.

How  Courts Determine the Distinction

Courts engage in a careful analysis to discern the differentiation between different categories of worker, specifically the dependent contractor. While the dependent contractor does exhibit characteristics akin to the independent contractor, the key distinction lies in their level of economic dependency on a particular business entity and their degree of control. Unlike the exclusive commitment that traditional employees adhere to, dependent contractors are not confined to working solely for one party. Instead, they have the flexibility to offer their services to various clients.

Nonetheless, the crux of the matter is the degree of reliance these contractors have on a specific business. In recent legal precedents, courts have outlined a crucial criterion to determine the extent of this reliance. For a worker to be classified as a dependent contractor, their financial interdependence with a single client must be significant. This criterion is established through the courts’ consensus that the client’s contribution should account for more than half, or more than 50%, of the contractor’s total income. This benchmark is seen as a litmus test to identify the substantial economic connection between the contractor and the client’s business. This precedent provides a clearer framework for evaluating cases, ensuring that the line between independent contractors and dependent contractors is drawn with precision, benefiting both workers and businesses alike.

How An Employment Lawyer Can Help

An employment lawyer plays a pivotal role in assisting both contractors and employers in navigating the intricate landscape of worker classifications, particularly concerning the concept of dependent contractors. For contractors, an employment lawyer can provide valuable insights into understanding their status and rights within the legal framework. They can evaluate the terms of their engagements, assess the degree of their financial dependence on specific clients, and determine whether their classification accurately reflects their working relationship. Additionally, the lawyer can guide contractors on how to negotiate favorable terms and contracts to safeguard their financial stability and rights.

On the employer’s side, an employment lawyer can offer crucial guidance to ensure compliance with regulations and laws governing the treatment of dependent contractors. They can review existing contracts, job descriptions, and working arrangements to minimize the risk of misclassification claims. By proactively addressing potential issues, an employment lawyer can help companies maintain productive relationships with dependent contractors while avoiding legal disputes. In cases of legal challenges or disputes, the lawyer can advocate for the best interests of both contractors and employers, working to achieve equitable resolutions that uphold the rights and responsibilities of each party.


The evolving worker classification landscape emphasizes the distinct roles of employees, independent contractors, and emerging dependent contractors. The 50% income threshold has become a key factor in defining dependent contractors, aiding courts in differentiation. Employment lawyers play a vital role in guiding both contractors and employers in navigating these nuances. Understanding these classifications is crucial for fair treatment, regulatory compliance, and successful working relationships in today’s dynamic work environment.

Contact Us

If you’re unsure about the differences between independent contractors and dependent contractors, or if you’re ready to start working on an employment agreement, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced team at Achkar Law for help.

Contact us today at +1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] , and let us help you find the solutions you need to move forward.

Further Reading