It’s not as easy as it used to be to answer the question of who’s the boss. Many employees survive on a patchwork of part-time jobs; the gig economy is growing fast enough to double in the next few years. Indeed, a recent study released by Upwork and the Freelancers Union predicts that most workers will be freelancers by the years 2020. As facts in the workplace evolve, so must the law.
That’s exactly what happened last fall in Gallagher v. Chambers, a case decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court. There, the Court clarified the test for identifying an employer under the Massachusetts Wage Act. Previously, courts had applied a common-law set of factors that led to inconsistent results in lower courts, which in some cases dismissed corporate defendants even though those entities benefitted from a plaintiff’s work. In Gallagher, a home health aide sued to recover for unpaid overtime wages. She named as defendants both her former customer – who had overseen her work on a daily basis – and the agency that had helped her find the placement and processed her paychecks. That raised the question of whether both were really her “employers” for purposes of the Wage Act. The Appeals Court took the opportunity to refine the rule for answering that question.