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HP Contract Workers Sue For Recognition

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the spurious-assertion dept.

The Courts 603

manganese4 writes "The Idaho Statesman is carrying the story of 33 local Boise HP contract workers suing HP. They claim that they were expected to perform at the same level of expectations as HP workers and thus should be given the rights and privileges of HP workers. HP claims the suit is without merit." From the article: "The suit seeks to represent 3,000 workers in Boise and elsewhere in the company and could involve as much as $300 million, according to the complaint."

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Easily Fixed (1, Insightful)

fembots (753724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013888)

they were expected to perform at the same level of expectations as HP workers

HP just has to force every permanent employee to drink and finish a can of beer, juice or water at the end of the day, and contractors are exempted from this ridiculous rule.

More reasons for Outsourcing (2, Insightful)

RoshanCat (145661) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013930)

Thank you, you have given HP and other big companies more reasons to outsource.

Re:More reasons for Outsourcing (3, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014167)

" Thank you, you have given HP and other big companies more reasons to outsource."

No shit...hell, after those contractors sued MS years back...its been bad enough trying to get companies to hire you as a 1099 contractor...

This is going to do nothing but make it even harder....I find it is damned near impossible to get anyone to do a straight 1009 to an individual. You can get around it by incorporating yourself, and doing it corp to corp...

Anyway, this sucks...if they wanted to be direct employees...do that. But, don't go in as a contractor, show your ass, sue...and f*ck it up for the rest of us that enjoy the $$'s, and freedom of contracting...

asshats....

Re:More reasons for Outsourcing (2, Insightful)

EnderWiggnz (39214) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014183)

this is outsourcing.

they're abusing perma-temps by not giving them full benefits and protections.

FIRST FISTING~! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12013893)

!FR1S7 PR0S7

Power to the people! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12013905)

Well, if they dont win there are always plenty of other options. [popealien.com]

robust and bustling economy my ass...

I never understood.. (3, Funny)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013910)

I never understood how these things work: Do some lawyers wake up in the morning and decide, "Hey! I need a new pool. Hmmmm, I think I sue HP today. Now, let's find a reason.".

That's really how it looks, and it would make me feel slimy to take part in something like that.

not that HP doesn't deserve, but that's not my point.

Re:I never understood.. (4, Insightful)

velo_mike (666386) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014001)

I never understood how these things work: Do some lawyers wake up in the morning and decide, "Hey! I need a new pool. Hmmmm, I think I sue HP today. Now, let's find a reason.".

Yes, actually there are some who do that. It's the same at the local level, where some lawyers pay interns to stand at the local police station photocopying accident forms.

not that HP doesn't deserve, but that's not my point.

So this person voluntarily entered into a contract with HP (well, with a subcontractor of HP), with the understanding that she would be paid X dollars in exchange for Y hours work, with no additional compensation expected on either side. Fast forward a couple years and now we're supposed to let her renegotiate the contract BACKDATED TO THE START because she's changed her mind? Screw that, it's called a learning experience, next time take a FT job, not a contract.

Re:I never understood.. (1)

Anonymous Custard (587661) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014104)

Yes, actually there are some who do that. It's the same at the local level, where some lawyers pay interns to stand at the local police station photocopying accident forms.

Is there something wrong with that? Would you prefer that injured people be apathetic and not pursue legal action when someone else breaks the law and hurts them?

Re:I never understood.. (2, Insightful)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014190)

Why should the injured party not be expected to be responsible for themselves and contact a lawyer, rather than the other way around, lawyers fishing for cases, which could result in meritless crap clogging the courts

Re:I never understood.. (1, Insightful)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014207)

So we should just allow large corporations to manipulate the job market in collusion? What if there were no FT jobs to accept, because these asshats manage to keep any from existing? Does that change anything? The DoJ antitrust division is toothless, unable to win even the most obvious cases, let alone something subtle like this. And you want to remove their one possible redress. Nice going.

Re:I never understood.. (1, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014225)

labour laws(and associated rules), and trying to get around them is the reason.

very few of us would be better off without them.

*now we're supposed to let her renegotiate the contract BACKDATED TO THE START because she's changed her mind?* you don't have to, but then again the laws might state so that you're not allowed to screw them around on technicalities(to save on medical insurances or whatever).

Re:I never understood.. (1)

0x461FAB0BD7D2 (812236) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014003)

Lawyers feel slimy too. Then they roll around in their piles of cash. Makes it all better, usually.

Re:I never understood.. (3, Funny)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014052)

More money sticks to you when you're all slimy, so it all works out...

Where the slime is (4, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014210)

A lot of lawsuits actually do start that way. But any contractor will tell you these people have a legitimate beef.

There are legitimate reasons to use contractors. Like when you temporarily need a few extra people at crunch time. Or there's a specialized task that it makes sense to outsource.

But a lot of contractors are doing jobs that are really part of the permanent organizational structure, often working side by side with permanent employees who do the same work. Technically, they're temporary people who work for themselves or for a "job shop". But their contracts are often extended for years, and the person who supervises them and decides they ongoing future works for the company, not the job shop.

I've never quite understood why companies "hire" so many non-employees. My best guess is that inept managers can't figure out how to justify the head count they need to get the job done, but somehow manage to get "temporary" funding for contractors.

Being that kind of long-term contractor can be maddening. There may be campus facilities, like a gym, that you're not allowed to use. There will certainly be bennies -- matched 401Ks, stock options, tuition reimbursements -- that you won't be eligible for. And then there are the intangibles...

I once worked for a year as a contractor helping clean up a doc set. (The guy who replaced me in this "temporary" job is still there -- 6 years later!) My work helped earn my writing team an award for "improved documentation." Some of the improvements cited were done at my initiative. But because I was a contractor, I wasn't even invited to the ceremony.

A lawyer who helps defend people against this kind of abuse is not "slimy". He's simply helping people defend their rights.

Contract (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12013916)

Contract! That should be enough information right there.

This is nothing new. It seems that at some point or another, all contractors suddenly feel that they are no longer contractors but rather employees. With entitlement no less.

The case is without merit but, not without precedence.

Re:Contract (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12013957)

The case is without merit but, not without precedence.

I think you mean "president". Dumbass!!!

Re:Contract (2, Interesting)

pommiekiwifruit (570416) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013961)

Certainly the Inland Revenue Department in the UK feels that way...

They don't like employers pretending people are "contractors" to avoid tax.

In Amerika (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014078)

In Amerika, contractors pay even more tax than regular employees. Employers, in Amerika, are forced to subsidize employees taxes by paying a payroll tax. Contractors are regarded as self-employed by the IRS and must therefore pay their own payroll tax.

A $40,000 job in Amerika will likely be taxed $11,200 in total.
An employee would pay $5,600 income tax and the employer would pay $5,600 payroll tax.

But, a contractor pays $11,200 income tax.

All numbers are estimated approximations. Your taxes may differ. I don't give a fuck what you think or paid! STFU FOAD YHBT

Re:In Amerika (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014120)

Please be less retarded

Except taxes are not avoided in this case (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014196)

It USED to be in the US that people were hired as "contractors" , paid directly without any withholding from their pay, and were responsible for paying their own taxes (and additional self-employment "social security" tax).

The IRS and state tax authorities got wise to this a LONG time ago - when I was a wee lad and no one, at least in California gets hired as a "1099" anymore (named after the tax form the hiring company reports your income on) unless you have a bundle of proof you are your own incorporated, have business insurance or a bond, or otherwise legal-tax-paying entity.

These gutless ambulance-chasing whiners in Idaho almost certainly were employees of a temp agency, which duly reported their income and withheld their taxes as employees of the temp agencies, not HP.

A lot of these temp agencies now offer benefits anyway. But then this is in Idaho, not California. Up there can't you just take an underperforming employee out in the desert and shoot 'em cowboy-style? In California you at least have to file and Environmental Impact Statement before you do that.

Re:Contract (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014048)

Yeah there should be an obvious difference. One is paid BY THE HOUR. The other is salaried. That should be established on the first day of work.

Not quite (5, Informative)

temojen (678985) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014189)

Around here (BC, Canada) an employee is one who

  1. works on an employers site,
  2. uses the employer's tools,
  3. works hours set by the employer, and
  4. is supervised by other employees of the employer,
  5. or any combination of 2 or 3 of the above.

For labour relations and tax reasons some employers try to put employees on the books as consultants or contractors, but their financial auditors (it's not GAAP [smartpros.com] ), revenue canada auditors (it may be tax evasion), and the labour relations board smack them down pretty fast.

(std disclaimer: IANAL, IANAA, if you need a lawyer or accountant, get a real one)

cuz the Boise in da hood (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12013917)

Are always hard
You come talking that trash we'll pull your card
Knowing nothing in life but to be legit
Don't quote me boy, cuz I ain't saying shit

Christ on a bike (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12013922)

Fucking QA workers. [leisuretown.com]

X

Contract workers (1)

Avada Kedavra (712991) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013924)

How fast will HP be closing their operations
in Boise?

Re:Contract workers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12013985)

I don't think that they'll be doing that. I do however suspect that there are about to be a bunch of openings for contract positions at HP in Boise.

I'd fire them too. They are obviously too stupid to work for me.

Probably soon. (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013999)

"How fast will HP be closing their operations in Boise?"

Probably soon. This suit encourages HP to do without such employees.

They're right, this has no merit... (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013926)

Jennifer Miller of Nampa is one of the plaintiffs. Miller said she was employed by HP in Boise from 1989 to 1995, when she took a severance package and left the company. She returned later in 1995 as a contract worker and worked at HP until March 9. Part of the time she was a contract employee through Veritest and Manpower Professional. Her jobs included testing software for HP printers.

Umm, I have never heard of anything like this before. Temp agencies hire employees, charge the companies their employees work at, and then pay (and give benefits if applicable) to their employees from that.

Since when are you owed money/benefits from a company you really don't directly work for?

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (1)

batura (651273) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013991)

I totally agree--- this exact kind of lawsuit against MS is what lead to their contract employees being treated ACTUALLY like second class citizens to make sure they weren't given the "same expectations as regular employees"

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014160)

That's just because there's no enforcement. MS routinely violates terms of the settlement. Contractors are not supposed to work on a project, take their mandatory break, and come back to the same project - but they do it all the time. Contractors are not supposed to do the same job as a full time employee - but they're asked to. I believe the HP workers have a case. Contract work of the type they're doing and the type at MS should be illegal - because it's unnecessary, it's only a way for the company to fail to plan at the expense of their workers.

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (1)

Feynman (170746) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013997)

...she took a severance package and left the company. She returned later [the same year] as a contract worker.

Did she return to the same job? If so, might she have a case? The article makes it seem that she was laid off, then rehired into substantially the same position as a contractor.

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014007)

That's what I was thinking. Aren't these people an employee of Manpower or some other company? Not HP.
-nB

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014054)

As the IRS and Microsoft worked out, a "temp" employee working for some period of time, like over 5 years, eventually crosses that gray fuzzy line and actually isn't a temp employee anymore.

The same doom and gloom was predicted for Microsoft before that permatemp lawsuit was won by the permatemps.

I don't know, though, who's won the war.

It's nice as a contractor, when things at the company are very chaotic, knowing you're just a contractor and your boat doesn't really sink or swim with the fortunes of the company for a variety of reasons. Sure, you might be out of a gig, but it's just a gig. There will be others.

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (5, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014065)

Umm, I have never heard of anything like this before. Temp agencies hire employees, charge the companies their employees work at, and then pay (and give benefits if applicable) to their employees from that.


Since when are you owed money/benefits from a company you really don't directly work for?

In this case, the contractors are claiming that for all intents-and-purposes, they functioned more like actual employeed than a contractor. They're use IRS defintions to back their case.

If the company can have you classed as a contractor, they save mondo money on not paying you benefits. They're saying they did the same work in the same office and effectively get discriminated against.

As I recall, a similar situation used to (does?) exist at Microsoft -- people could stay as contractors for years in the same position. They got none of the perks and benefits, and were effectively second-class citizens (or so I've heard, I've never even been to Washington State).

These people are trying to get themselves recognized as being actual employees, or at least equivelant.

Cheers

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014098)

They should be fired.

When they agreed to do contract work they new the rules and expectations. Now they're crying that they want more than was agreed upon? Crybabies.

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (3, Informative)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014155)

If the company can have you classed as a contractor, they save mondo money on not paying you benefits. They're saying they did the same work in the same office and effectively get discriminated against.

If you work through Manpower (as the employee the article listed) you do NOT work for HP and regardless of what work you do there you are NOT owed benefits/compensation from them.

You work for Manpower and should be arguing with THEM for better pay and benefits more in line with your current working conditions.

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (1)

LowneWulf (210110) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014180)

Used to exist at Microsoft.

In fact, the lawsuit against HP is probably modelled largely after an almost identical lawsuit filed against Microsft a few years ago (which M$ lost, unfortunately).

Since Vizcaino v. Microsoft (1)

glrotate (300695) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014154)

Good summary of the law at Findlaw [findlaw.com]

They probably have a good case.

Re:They're right, this has no merit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014158)

So, rather than cut and dried "$/hour" terms and tax breaks for being self-employed these people want less take home pay, to be locked into a company mandated health care program, and for no more company loyalty than a "two weeks notice and off you go" buys you?

Are they nuts?

Companies want contractors to feel like employees when it comes to caring about the bottom line, working as a team, all the rah-rah stuff. And most that I know do - it's called "being professional".

I know it's a pipe dream, but I'd love to see the suit dismissed out of hand, and HP move their operations to somewhere else in the States.

Hpaq (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12013927)

Otherwise known as Carly Corp.

Not anymore. AssCheese! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014148)

Carly got the boot.

No Merit (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12013932)

Indeed, there is no merit to the suit. The workers entered freely into a contract and were payed for their services according to said contract. Only a liberal/socialist activist judiciary could find any merit whatsoever in the suit

Re:No Merit (2, Insightful)

0x461FAB0BD7D2 (812236) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014051)

How is this in any way political? It's a bunch of temps who think they've been treated badly. That's it.

Everything is not political, believe it or not.

Free Potatoes! (3, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013937)

"The suit seeks to represent 3,000 workers in Boise and elsewhere in the company and could involve as much as $300 million, according to the complaint." "

The protest will die down as soon as the contractors are offered HP's "4 30-lbs sacks of potatoes" bonus offered to the regular Idaho employees as a holiday bonus.

That ain't how contracts work (4, Insightful)

mlmurray (12934) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013941)

They claim that they were expected to perform at the same level of expectations as HP workers and thus should be given the rights and privileges of HP workers.
No. They should be given the rights and privileges that were spelled out in the contract.

Re:That ain't how contracts work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014043)

Assuming the contract is valid. Not all contracts are legal.

For example, in most states if you hire a nanny for more than a few hours/month then you're considered their employer, and you must pay workers comp insurance. Trying to get around this by writing up a "contract" to make them an independent contractor won't accomplish anything; the law trumps any language you put in the contract.

No (2, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014220)

The guidline for what constitutes a 'contract' employee is determined by state laws. Useally very specifically.
The idea of 'contract' employee is you work to create a very spific thing, by a specific date.
You can:
1) Work where you want
2) When you want
3) wearing what you want.
4) the ability to hire your own employees to do the job

If you get responsibilities beyond that, your an employee
If you are told to work specific time, your an employee
If you have to adhear to a dress code, your an employee.

As always see A lawyer who specializes in this area whenever you are getting a new contract.

Contract workers (5, Interesting)

mingot (665080) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013944)

I'm pulling for these guys. Companies tend to have the nasty habit of using what they call contractors to get out of paying taxes and benifits that they really should be. If you go to the IRS website and look up the rules which are used to determine whether someone is an employee or contractor it's clear that rules are being broken.

Is it any surprise? (5, Insightful)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013971)

"Companies tend to have the nasty habit of using what they call contractors to get out of paying taxes and benifits that they really should be"

Is this any surprise? If the government makes you pay a higher tax for full-time employees, then this discourages hiring full-time employees. The same with imposition of benefits for such employees: it is the government providing a disincentive for hiring the kind of employees that would get these benefits.

Is it any surprise that the companies are responding to economic pressure from the government NOT to hire regular full-time workers?

Re:Is it any surprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014111)

It's not about wages - it's about the "benefits" - like healthcare and pension costs.
When a company rehires it's own employee's through another company they avoid paying the benefits. No healthcare - No pension. That saves a whole lot o cash.

As for the government's role - by ignoring the "perfectly legal" measures used by companies to save expenses they encourage the "race to the bottom".

Re:Is it any surprise? (1)

mingot (665080) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014157)

It's not perfectly legal.

Re:Is it any surprise? (1)

Tenebrious1 (530949) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014166)

Is this any surprise? If the government makes you pay a higher tax for full-time employees, then this discourages hiring full-time employees. The same with imposition of benefits for such employees: it is the government providing a disincentive for hiring the kind of employees that would get these benefits. Is it any surprise that the companies are responding to economic pressure from the government NOT to hire regular full-time workers?

No suprise at all. And of course, these are the number cited when the "unemployment" figures come out and it shows "unemployment" is down. Yeah, more people may be employed, but only because for each two people you fire, you can hire three contractors since you don't need to kick in for medical, pension, and benefits.

Re:Contract workers (1)

handmedowns (628517) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014016)

would you happen to have a specific url? I would like to read up on that.

Thanks =]

Self Employement Tax (1)

bsd4me (759597) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014115)

If a employer has a normal employee, then the company is responsible for a portion of the Medicare taxes. If the employee is a contractor (ie, no withholding taken and given a 1099-MISC), then the employee is responsible for paying these taxes. It is generally referred to as the self-employment tax.

Re:Contract workers (1)

Reignking (832642) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014039)

The link is here [irs.gov] , and contains headings such as
Behavorial Control,
Financial Control, and
Type of Relationship.

Re:Contract workers (1)

MikeBiesanz (867611) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014056)

I'm pulling for these guys. Companies tend to have the nasty habit of using what they call contractors to get out of paying taxes and benifits that they really should be. If you go to the IRS website and look up the rules which are used to determine whether someone is an employee or contractor it's clear that rules are being broken. Ummm.. How is this clear? Personally, I feel you can rail against the "system" all you want, but ultimatley if you do not like your job then either keep it to yourself and continue to get paid or quit and get a different job.

Re:Contract workers (1)

Ummagumma (137757) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014100)

You see, then the CONTRACTOR pays the taxes that the employer is not. Its called a 'self employment tax', or in the case of contractors working for an agency, they are generally W2 employees of the agency.

Taxes get paid, don't worry about that.

Read the contract? (4, Interesting)

chiapetofborg (726868) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013945)

I've had my share of contract and full-time work, and I guess I'm kinda weird, because I actually read my contract. If it doesn't say I get benefits, I don't expect benefits, If it says I will, I expect benefits. Am I going to be getting a 1099 or a W2 at the end of the year? Because one is typical of a contract employee and the other is a regular employee. Regular employees typically get benefits, and the company pays the taxes. Contract employees pay their own taxes and benefits.

This is dumb (4, Insightful)

Holi (250190) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013946)

I am sorry but I have done contract work for over 10 years and this pisses me off. They may work at HP but they work for either their contract agency or for themselves. I didn't sue Pixar when I worked there because they decided not to put contractors in the credits. I don't expect the company I am working at to provide me with health benefits and stock options, I should get those through the agency who pays me.

contracting at Apple (5, Interesting)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013952)

When I started a contract job at Apple Computer in the late 1980s, they made me sign a statement that I was not an Apple employee, was not elgible for the benefits Apple provided to employees, and that if any time I believed that I was an Apple employee, I was to deliver written notification to Apple's legal department. The purpose of this statement was presumably to avoid the exact situation HP appears to be in.

Later Apple did hire me as an employee. At that point since I believed that I was an employee, pursuant to the previously signed statement I wrote a notice and tried to deliver it to Apple's legal department. They seemed completely flummoxed as to why I was notifying them that I was an employee.

Re:contracting at Apple (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014132)

Did you do this in all seriousness? Most reasonable people would have seen that they were terminated as contractors and re-hired as permanent staff, releasing them from the obligations of the former and taking on the obligations of the latter.

You're lucky they didn't reconsider the wisdom of their new hire, but maybe they appreciated you anal-retentiveness.

Oh shit.... (1)

theVP (835556) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013954)

My contract just disappeared....

About freaking time! (5, Informative)

numbski (515011) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013962)

My wife and I each spent a stint with Compaq (became HP while she still worked there) and they play this game all the time. They work everyone the same, but 'badge' employees actually get vacation, 401k, etc.

It wasn't right then, and if it's still going on, good for them for suing. I knew people that had worked there for YEARS and never got 'badged'. No vacation time (although you could occassionally get time off without pay) and rarely, if ever would you get any kind of incentive or pay increase. You'd also usually get let go without warning, and the contractors would play a game of saying that you're still employed with the contracting agency, thus not entitled to unemployment benefits (which, at least under Colorado law is not true. I managed to get benefits).

Anyway, it's about time.

Re:About freaking time! (1, Troll)

bluprint (557000) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014073)

Why then, if it's so bad, would you agree to it?

It seems to me, this is more a matter of integrity. If you and I come to an agreement, you shouldn't expect more than what we agreed to. If you do happen to find a legal loophole to retroactively force me to agree to something I wouldn't have agreed to, then you have zero integrity.

Re:About freaking time! (4, Interesting)

numbski (515011) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014197)

I don't know about Boise, but in Colorado Springs, it was BAD. Employement opportunities got to be really scarce, no one was going to walk away from their jobs.

HP simply abused the situation. Looks like in Boise they are continuing to abuse a similar situation. This is more the contracting agencies and HP collaborating to screw people over en masse for profit, using dubious contracting methods. I've worked in the situation, and it is certainly NOT as cut and dried as this article makes it out to be.

Re:About freaking time! (2, Insightful)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014126)

They work everyone the same, but 'badge' employees actually get vacation, 401k, etc.

This is why contractors generally get payed significantly more than employees, because they have to buy things the employees get `for free' (including some level of job security).

If Compaq/HP contractors weren't getting payed sufficiantly more than employees to cover this kind of thing then they should have walked away from the job en-mass. At that point either HP finds they didn't need the contractors anyway, they increase the money or they start hireing lots more employees.

Re:About freaking time! (1)

darkmayo (251580) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014162)

I did the same with compaq/Hp but as for who to be pissed at for the pay discrepency between the full time and contract employees is a bit muddled.

Personally I was with a IT contracting company that did provide us with benefits,2 week vacation and 4 paid sick days.. and they had us working for compaq.. which then became HP. The HP fulltimers who did the same job as us.. sometimes poorer (depending on the employee) made more than double we did plus HP employee benefits.. definately a sore point amongst the contractors, but we also knew our contracting company took a nice cut of what HP paid them for us.. (was like 30%) now sure that 30% didnt even come close to making us on par with HP fulltimers but it does have to be looked at. How much of the screwjob is HP and how much is your contracting company?

They can't just call them "contractors" (5, Informative)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013963)

to avoid paying benefits, etc...


The IRS rules on this are quite specific and, IIRC, Microsoft lost a huge case on this in the early 90's for hiring contractors that were, in essence, 2nd class employees.


From the article:


Huntley's lawsuit cites all 20 criteria and claims that in every case HP treats contract workers as employees.

Among them:

Does the worker have assistants whom the company supervises and pays?

Does the company furnish tools, materials and other equipment sufficient to show control?

Is the worker required to devote substantially full time to the company?

Kaupins advises companies to check with the IRS if they have any questions about contract workers vs. employees, because companies can be held liable for back taxes if worker status changes from contractor to employee.

Re:They can't just call them "contractors" (1)

Xentax (201517) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014164)

And that's why MS changed the rules so no contractor can claim he's treated exactly the same way as an employee.

I'm as much for employee rights and fair treatment as most, but honestly, waiting and trying to get a class action lawsuit is just repaying wrong with more wrong. If you feel you're not being compensated appropriately for your level of effort, you should ask for redress OR QUIT. You signed a contract that stipulates your compensation, so adhere to it, ask to renegotiate, or opt out, something that's your right in any "at-will" state, though perhaps not everywhere.

The other thing I don't see here is mention overtime. Aren't many contractors paid hourly, and thus potentially getting overtime, overtime which salaried "employees" do NOT receive? And don't contract rates typically work out to more than an equivalent 'salary' to partly compensate for the lack of benefits like healthcare and vacation?

I was at a small company just after college. A contractor wanted to go full time, but only if he kept his converted hourly rate as his salary PLUS all the benefits - 3 weeks vacation, full health care coverage, etc. The company said no, and I don't blame them, that amounts to something like a 40-50% raise!

Xentax

Just makes it harder for us contractors (1)

gregor-e (136142) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013969)

This crap just makes life harder for us contractors who understand the meaning of the paper we sign. I've had contracts that were terminated simply because the company had to adopt a policy of limiting how long a contractor can work for them, so as not to confuse a contractor with "permanent" employees. What's next? A class-action lawsuit by employees who discover that their cow-orkers are all earning a few bucks more than they are?

Will this hurt Gulfstream? (3, Funny)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013972)

If HP loses this suit will it delay future HP purchases of Gulf Stream 5's?

The funny thing is... (4, Interesting)

Kenja (541830) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013978)

Whats funny to me is that when Microsoft got sued for much the same reasons the response here was very much against the Redmond Giant. Now thats its another company the attitudes seem to have shifted against the contract workers. This is also a reason I will never again do temp work. I'd rather fish uneaten burgers out of the Burger King dumpster.

Re:The funny thing is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014021)

You will not do temp work because Slashdot readers are a fickle lot?

I must have mis-read your post.

Re:The funny thing is... (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014074)

"You will not do temp work because Slashdot readers are a fickle lot?"

No I wont do temp work because the people you end up working for or with treat you like a disposable peon no matter how good you are at the job. The person who paid the temp agency gets the credit for your work, you're not a real employee and often treated as not a real person. Project running late? Just have the temps work tripple time while you go home at noon!

Are they, or are they not, contract employees? (1)

Jurph (16396) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013988)

The case doesn't look cut-and-dried, but only because the article doesn't mention whether the employees actually signed an employment contract, or whether the contract was between HP and the hiring company.

It seems to me that the status quo was in accordance with the terms of the contract -- if those terms were not equitable, then the workers shouldn't have signed up to work under its conditions. If the terms weren't equitable, but the workers really wanted the work... then I guess the terms were equitable enough.

As for expectations vs. pay, fair doesn't enter into it. If I hire ten people to work for me for $100/hr., and another ten people to work for me for $50/hr., and levy the same requirements on them, then the second group may be upset... but they were the ones who agreed to the deal. If they don't like it, they can quit, and I'll find someone else.

Speaking of which, I've got several openings at my company, and we pay just under $50/hr. Anyone interested?

This makes it harder for the (3, Informative)

MisanthropicProgram (763655) | more than 9 years ago | (#12013998)

self employed contract workers.
Back when I did contract work, I always had to go through a large agency because:

I wasn't on the preferred vendor list

I needed to have more than five employees working at my company

I needed to be incorporated - not much of a problem. My accountant did it for me for $75.
When I asked why the hoops, I was told about IRS rules. When I pinned them on it they confessed that it was because they were afraid of what happened in the article happening to them. As a result, I earned 40% less because of people like the above.
Hello, when you work for a contract company, you are treated differently: usually paid more then the regular employees.

Sorry about the rant.

Re:This makes it harder for the (3, Insightful)

numbski (515011) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014133)

From experience with HP (Compaq at the time, probably what this facility once was), contractors are paid less, worked more, and given no benefits at all.

They get worked long term in order to avoid giving said benefits, and a small, SMALL minority will ever get changed to full time.

If you were in the situation, you'd know how bad it is. This isn't a cut and dried "you're contractor, so you abide by the contract", it's more, "the majority of our workforce is temp so we can treat them like crap and get away with it".

Of course the contracting companies play along and take their cut too. The whole thing, legal or not, deserves that someone get strung up.

By the way... (1)

MisanthropicProgram (763655) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014144)

The reason I incorparated was to go "corp to corp" with the agency. This allowed me to get a 20% increase in my rate since I was handling the tax shit.

Re:This makes it harder for the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014219)

Hello, when you work for a contract company, you are treated differently: usually paid more then the regular employees.

Heh, maybe if you're lucky. My S.O. works at Kimberly-Clark, and they pay them a fraction of what the full-timers make and work him twice as hard. The lazy bitch FTEs just sit around while the contractors do all the work for low pay and no benefits. Fuck Kimberly Clark and the contracting agencies that are taking good jobs and turning them into lowly ones.

/buy Puffs-brand facial tissues

As a contract worker, this worries me. (2, Informative)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014000)

Frankly, this may well make life more difficult for those of us who act as contract consultants. They pulled this stuff on Microsoft a few years back, and as a consequence contractors don't GET to stay there for extended periods, they are essentially kicked out and forced to find other employment after a rather short amount of time (a year or eighteen months or something?). I worry about what this means to the rest of the industry.

Re:As a contract worker, this worries me. (1)

shuz (706678) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014204)

The solution seems quite simple here. Microsoft, HP, or any other company should just hire the workers as their own employees. If Companies would act more like families and treat their employees as such we wouldn't have all these problem. On the flip side it is an employees responsibility to either put up or get out whether they are contracted or regular. I have a problem with contract labor but only because of the way its implemented. As stated in many other posts the IRS has rules about this. Money drives business so the IRS could change companies habbits with the changing of its rules.

They should thank HP (1)

dcrocha (776603) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014013)

they were expected to perform at the same level of expectations as HP workers

Given the performance of HP workers, they haven't been ask much... :D

Assholes (1, Insightful)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014015)

These stupid fuckers are screwing all the other people in this country who make their living as temps, or more importantly, as in-place consultants.

I remember the fallout from the AOL/Microsoft temp lawsuits. Companies started to restrict the ways a consultant could interact with their employees and dramatically restricted the things you could and could not do in your day to day dealings with everyone inside the company, therefore making it difficult to do your job.

Some of the restrictions and "rules" were down right retarded. I won't even bother mentioning them. The relationships with permanent employees (often in the same friggin' project) were strained and sometimes became akward. "Relationship advisors" were brought in to explain to us why we couldn't do this-or-the-other. I could care less about the "let's hold hands and sing Kumbaya" crap, but LET ME DO MY JOB FERSSAKES. You're effin' paying for it anyway.

These assholes should be counter-sued by HP and taken to pound-me-in-the-ass federal prison for this frivolous bullshit. YOU'RE A CONTRACT WORKER FOR THE LOVE OF ZOD!! What part of that do they not understand? But noooo, HP is going to settle for nine gazillion dollars and those of us who can deal with reality will be fucked for another four years until this fades from the memory of managers everywhere.

Cripes these things piss me off.

Re:Assholes (1)

MisanthropicProgram (763655) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014066)

Yes! I agree completely! I contracted because I hated being an employee. I also contracted because as an employee, I got sick of being forced to work over 40 hours all the time. When I contracted, I got paid to work over 40. And you know what, as contract, I never had to work over 40 - go figure!!

We recently ditched our contractors (2, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014033)

and I know of a few friends who lost their jobs contracting. All of it was because of lawsuits like this. We did give most of them the chance to become full time employees but a few decided to strike out on their own.

Now the only contracts we do are short term, IF AT ALL. We now hire consulting companies who bring a solution with them. This can be the same as having 2 or 3 contracters but it avoids the legal issue of whom do these people actually work for.

Too many courts are more than willing to jump on the side of the plantiffs. Combine that with lottery minded juries and the system is ripe for squeezing.

A contract is a contract. I cannot ever recall being forced to actually work for a company I did not choose to. The suits are usually the recourse of people who did nothing to protect their marketability.

contractor (1)

SocietyoftheFist (316444) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014037)

Another way of saying employee that I don't pay health insurance or taxes on. I know plenty of people that are in this situation, they work just as a regular employee but have to collect their own taxes and pay for own health costs. I know it is easy to say that nobody is making them take the contract but you do what you have to do to survive. Contracting, like outsourcing, is just another way for corporations to cut the bottom line and quite frankly most contractors don't meet the IRS definition of a contractor.

Sorry guys (1)

devphaeton (695736) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014067)

This is pretty typical...

I'm sure that many of us here (myself included) have worked as a contractor, side-by-side with full-time direct staff, doing the same thing with the same expectations, yet at a fraction of the $$ and benefits.

Jobs like that are just a stepping stone. Get the experience and move on. :thu:

Yeah, folks, guess what (1)

melted (227442) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014077)

That's why they pay you a lot more in salary than they would if you were an employee in the same position. Contractors get salaries, employees get "packages" consisting of salary (which is usually a lot less than for contractors) and benefits (for which contractors are not eligible). So, are you ready for pay cuts?

Speaking as a contractor (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014079)

I'll certainly be watching this one!

I'm in the UK and I've been a contractor at a big IT company for over 3 years now. Still no sign of getting my contract converted to a permanent one to the company I work in. Not as many days holidays as badged employees. No pension plan. Lately I have been told that I have reached the top wage I can get in my current position and the temp agency policy is no bonuses. ("But you're doing a great job! Fantastic!").
When I signed the contract it seemed that you stayed as a temp for 1 to 2 years before getting a contract with the actual company.
So yeah I totally understand the frustration of those guys.
And the whole contractor thing is only getting more and more common.

Want their cake and eat it too (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014086)

Contract workers make 50%+ more than salaried employees due to the fact that benefits, etc, do not need to be paid. So they want to get the higher wages, and then get all the benefits? BS.

Working at a company, getting a package, and then coming back to work there for a higher contract salary is an old-school trick that has been around for years. The plaintiff took advantage of it, and then now wants to get benefits for something they dont deserve.

I hope they lose and I hope these people never find work again in the industry.

IBM (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014094)

Lost a suit similar to this some years ago, I believe in New York state. They owed a lot of contractors lots of benefit and vacation pay. The court ruled they had muddled the relationship.

Basically, if you treat a contractor as an employee, the IRS wants you to pay the payroll taxes. And if via the IRS you become an employee, then depending on where you are they may need to supply you with thier regular benefits.

I'm suing too! (3, Funny)

TheNecromancer (179644) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014099)

Hey, this lawsuit is just like the one I'm bringing against /.! I was a "common-law" moderator, and they took my mod rights away! I was expected to perform on the same level as the moderators, but without receiving the same benefits!

Ooh, you guys are gonna pay me $$$ restitution! :p

Still comes down to profit (1)

BinaryLobster (837808) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014105)

This is just another chapter in the eternal profit war.

Big companies use contractors because they are cheaper than full time w/benefits employees. Saves them money so they can have a better bottom line.

The IRS, in an attempt to keep some of their tax money, has created a set of rules defining "real" employee criteria. Otherwise, large corps would fire the FTEs and contract them back, saving tons on taxes and benefits.

Sounds like HP has pushed their contracting policy far enough that someone has noticed and decided to cash in on it.

Bad for HP. Good for those of us who would like to have a real job with benefits. Great for the lawyer who will probably make more than anybody.

----

Yea, yea, I know a sig goes here.

I wish people would stop doing this. (2, Insightful)

Harodotus (680139) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014122)

As a consultant / contractor of 12 years, lawsuits like this make my life much more difficult.

I can't even begin to describe how many times I have to sign in contracts that I realize I am not an employee of my customer.

I Am being paid a significant premium for the instability of contracting, almost 50%. To think that I could go back over the years and figure out cases where I might have made more money being an in-house employee and then suing just those, is simply ridiculous.

To try to convince my customers I will never EVER have basis to sue them, I do the following:

1) I sign contracts explicitly stating (several times) that I realize I am not and never will become an employee regardless of how long I work there, what I do, for the manner in which I do it.

2) I sign away any right to collect any significant damages if I where to sue anyways.

3) I sub-contract through a recruiting agency, where I sign another set of contracts saying the same thing but to indemnify the recruiting company.

4) I have my Own 1 man C-Corporation who signs the contracting agreement. I myself am not even doing work (technically) for the customer.

5) My Corporation, uses ADP Payroll services to pay it's employees (my) who are all Salaried and their pay not dependant on what company I might do the work for. I myself am a salaried W2 employee of my own C-corp.

Even with all these precautions, I STILL have trouble allaying the fears of potential customers that I can possibly be mistakes to be an employee of my customer.

Lawsuits like this make my life hell and cost me the money of potential customers who are afraid of them.

It's called PermaTemping and your job is next (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014146)

I worked for a huge HP spinoff company as a DBA for about 2 weeks. From what I saw, about 50% or more of their workforce were contracts from temp agencies. I was hired for a 1yr "project", but when I got there, there was nothing "project" about the job. It was just a DBA operations role that had been in existence for years. I took the job because I had been looking for 4 mos and couldn't find a permenant position with benifits. They paid about half what I had made in the past, with NO benifits. I finally found another perm job and left.

I'm torn. If this is what it takes for us to stay competitive then so be it. But lets be honest about what is really going on...Its a way for companies to maintain staff while not paying benifits.

They have seen it coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12014149)

My company is actually doing a lot of work with HP services - and ever since HP lawyers learned about the existence of so-called 1000hr rule we have drastically changed how we cooperate. No more permanent contractors, no more cross-company project management, reporting, etc.. Also, my own company is no longer hiring contractors itself. Back in '90s we've had a lot of 'lifetime contractors' which worked pretty much as everyone, but without vacation or the benefits (for a higher wage, though). Now they are all mostly gone or employed on a regular basis. When we consider sourcing we need to comply to 1000hr rule for contractors - if they would be in the project for more than 1000 hours they, apparently, could demand permanent employment. Since my company is among Fortune top 20 and tops most of other benchmarks I would guess we have good lawyers and this rule is indeed enforcable.

She is a Temp, not and HP employee (0, Redundant)

varmittang (849469) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014151)

She worked for HP, left, then came back as a temp worker for another company that does work for HP, and expects HP to give her benifits. She is not and HP employee, she is a Temp. This has no base what so ever.

Not Contract Workers (3, Interesting)

Uhlek (71945) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014152)

While colloquially classified as "contractors," these individuals were not contract employees. They were full-time employees (W-2) of the contracting company, who in turn had a contract with the customer to provide a staffing service. The contract was with their employer -- not the employee directly.

The contractor vs. employee argument only comes into play when you're talking about true-blue contractors who work for a flat rate under a 1099, not W2 employees.

This was the situation in the famous Microsoft contractor vs. employee case. Contrary to common belief, the contractors were not the instigators in that case. It was the IRS who audited Microsoft and determined that they had incorrectly classified people as independant contractors as opposed to employees, and was therefore liable for back employment taxes (which, by the way, are paid if you're a W2 employee of a contracting company). The contractors then picked it up from there and demanded that, since the IRS classified them as employees, they were due the benefits give to full-time employees.

In my humble, and non-lawyerish opinion, this case is entirely without merit. They were employees of the contracting company, and were given a benefit package that they agreed upon by becoming employees.

Not individual contractors (2, Interesting)

RevMike (632002) | more than 9 years ago | (#12014222)

If the news story is accurate, these workers are not the same as if you or I worked as an independent contractor. According to the story, these workers were employees of staffing companies. The staffing companies were the contractors. They are no more entitled to be HP employees than the guy who drives around the lawnmower for a landscaping company deserves to be the direct employee of the landscaper's customer.

There are laws intended to protect individual workers from being treated like contractors instead of employees. A company can't simply hire people on a 1099 basis instead of a W-2 and duck all sorts of taxes and liabilities. The law provides for a set of tests to distinguish a true independent contractor from these situations. But the plaintiffs in this suit appear to be getting a W-2 from their employers, the staffing companies.

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