Little Lamb Company needs an additional programmer for a special project. The company enters into a contract with Mary to complete this project. Just as the project is nearing completion, initially an independent contractor as she had a high degree of control over how the work is accomplished, and enters into a contract with the company a new need arises for her services. She is asked to continue with the company to complete the new project. While completing the new project, the supervisor begins working more closely with Mary and requires her to use company materials and equipment while adhering to company work schedules. Mary seems to be moving toward an “at-will” employee position, because she appears to have less control over how the work is accomplished as she will probably have to answer to the supervisor, and using the companies materials and equipment and adhering to the company work schedules.
After two years suggests “at-will” employee because of the length of time being 2 years, economic conditions force the company to make budget cuts. Mary is asked to leave as an employee, as she is obviously no longer working as an independent contractor, when asked to leave the company. Thirty days later, a major contract is acquired by the company, which reinstates the need for Mary’s services as a programmer. However, the supervisor chooses to hire his equally-qualified cousin and not offer Mary the opportunity to return. The use of word “hire” implied that Mary had been an employee and not an independent contractor.
Is Mary an independent contractor or an employee? Describe the factors that led to your determination.
There are several criteria to determine if Mary is a contractor or an employee. For example, one critical aspect to distinguish an independent contractor from an employee is the degree of control over how the work is accomplished. Initially Mary seemed to have more control than she did at the end, so it seems that she moved from being a independent contractor at the beginning to an employee over time. However, there are many factors to consider in making a determination as to whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee.
Some of these criteria include:•Whether a distinct occupation or business is being performed; e.g. programmer, so initially Mary was contracted as an independent contractor for a specific project.
•The amount of supervision over the means by which the work is performed; e.g. “the supervisor begins working more closely with Mary and requires her to use company materials and equipment while adhering to company work schedules” implies a move away from independent contractor towards an “at will” employee.
•The degree of skill required to perform the work; e.g., “programmer” “equally-qualified cousin”•Who provides the tools used to perform the work, and, e.g., “requires her to use company materials and equipment while adhering to company work schedules” and therefore moving towards being an “at-will” employee•The place where the work is done; e.g. Mary is working in the office, “the supervisor begins working more closely with Mary and requires her to use company materials and equipment while adhering to company work schedules” suggesting an “at-will” employee position.
Has the employer/employee relationship changed over the course of time? If so, how?As mentioned above, it did seem to change over time. It seems that initially, Mary could be considered an independent contractor because “Little Lamb Company needs an additional programmer for a special project” and Mary entered into a contract with the company. However, Mary was later asked to stay on and began working close to the supervisor, who expected Mary to used the company materials and equipment, to follow the company work schedule, and was terminated at will when economic conditions demanded. Thus, Mary seemed to move from an independent contractor to an “at-will” employee.
3) Was Mary’s release legal under the doctrine of employment-at-will? Why or why not?This is murky water and it depends. If Mary had moved into an “at will” employee, then the doctrine of employment-at-will allows her employee to let her go without reason (however, they initially had a contract, which we look at in the next part of this question below). In the scenario, it says Mary enters into a contract for the first project, however, makes no mention of a contract when she is asked to stay on (however, sometimes contracts are implied). For example, in most states of the United States all employees are considered “at will” employees. That means that the employer can terminate or change the employment relationship “at will”, unless there is a contract with the employer. In general, an employer can fire an “at will” employee, or change the employee’s position or compensation with no notice and no reason.
Likewise, the employee can terminate his employment “at will” without notice or reason. However, there are three possible legitimated reasons employee can challenge a wrongful termination:If not, which of the following exceptions to employment-at-will have been violated? Why?a) Breach of public policy (Perhaps) Values, principles and basic rules that the courts and legislatures consider to be in the best interest of individuals and the general public. Employer violations of specific labor and employment laws might be called violations of public policy, instead of or in addition to violations of the specific laws. That is because it is in the best interest of all workers that all employers obey such laws. Public policy may be written or implied, and varies among states and municipalities. Consequently, whether or not an employer has violated public policy is often a matter of interpretation by a court or arbitrator (i.e., hired cousin instead of having Mary return).
b) Breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Probably not, because it is dealing with contracts and the question is dealing with “at-will” exceptions.
c) Breach of implied contract (this is a possibility). Why? For example, in a “contract” between the employer and the employee, even in the absence of a formal written employment agreement. For example, language in an employee handbook may promise “all layoffs are based on seniority” or “we give employees at least 2 weeks notice of all layoffs”. Therefore, if Mary thins she is wrongfully terminated, as an employee; she can challenge a wrongful termination for these legitimate reasons
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