Can we pay a temporary employee as an independent contractor?

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We’ve hired someone to help out with some end-of-year tasks, and they’ll be leaving shortly after the new year. Can we pay them as an independent contractor since the duration of their employment will be only a handful of days? We will be controlling the work.


Likely not. The IRS, the U.S. Department of Labor, and state agencies have specific criteria for determining who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. These criteria focus on the overall relationship workers have with their employer, with attention to who controls when, where, and how the job gets done, along with who has the opportunity for financial profit or loss. The timespan of employment is not one of those criteria.

We recommend you review the criteria in light of what the role will be, but based on what you’ve said, the person hired will probably be an employee.

Answer by Kim Alexander, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

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