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I live in Massachusetts which recently passed a very complicated law for Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML). I'm trying to understand my obligations under this law as described on this mass.gov page.

This page states a 1099-MISC worker is covered by the law unless the person is an independent contractor as defined in the usual way (see here).

So this PFML law seems to be stating that:

  • you can be an 1099-MISC worker, but
  • not be an independent contractor.

I was under the impression that a 1099-MISC worker was the same thing as an independent contractor. A Google search seems to confirm this.

Can anyone explain what is going on here?

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I believe that this is drawing a distinction, as labor law usually does, between the manner of payment and the conditions of employment. Manner of payment has to do with the worker's status under tax law (or perhaps each of several bodies of tax law). Conditions of employment are related to labor law.

For example, labor law protections typically extend to those who are employees as defined in labor law. A typical test of this is, for example, whether the worker's hours are set by the worker or the employer. The point of this is to prevent employers from getting out of having to pay overtime (for example) by choosing to pay their employees as if they were contractors.

The tax law tests and the labor law tests may be slightly different, so a 1099 worker may be an employee for the purpose of some laws even if he or she is legitimately paid as a contractor under tax law.

  • Interesting, I had thought that a W-2 was required for an employee. – gaefan Sep 7 at 13:55
  • @gaefan sometimes employers who should be paying workers as W-2 employees don't. That is, it's required but the employer isn't in compliance. Other laws are written so that lack of compliance doesn't deprive the worker of their protection. – phoog Sep 7 at 14:02
  • So this law is presuming that companies will be breaking other laws (and that is kind of ok) but even if you are breaking that law you need to comply with this one. That is hilarious. :) – gaefan Sep 7 at 14:48
  • Further, if you comply with the PFML law for a 1099-MISC worker, it seems that you are admitting that you are violating labor laws, which can have serious consequences. Seems really bizarre to have this situation. – gaefan Sep 7 at 14:53
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    The definition of who has to file W-2 v. 1099 and the definition of who is an employee or not for various labor laws (the definitions are not consistent within labor laws either) are different. You don't necessarily have to violate any laws to have a mixed treatment. More generally, in the law, words usually mean different things in different contexts and don't have a single universal meaning. – ohwilleke Sep 10 at 1:12

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