Can an independent contractor be required to perform work for which they will never be compensated?

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Can an independent contractor be required to perform work for which they will never be compensated?

I’m a paper carrier. About 1 1/2 years ago I had to contract with a distributor. Previously, I had to oversee customers whose subscriptions had expired but who were still getting a paper. Either they would pay or I stopped them for non-payment. If they paid I would receive back money covering the period while they were in collect status. The distributor now has this task and I was told I would now be paid for every paper delivered whether collect on or not. Recently I have only been paid for delivery to customers with a paid account and will not get back money, thus I am performing work for which I will never be paid.

Asked on January 5, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The answer is, if you agree to do this, you have to do it; the relationship between an independent contractor and his/her client is a contractual one, so whatever is agreed to between them defines the scope of the work and compensation.

If there is a written agreement with a definite term currently in place, the distributor can't look to change its terms until its expiration. If there's no written agreement, then it's most likely the case that the distributor may make this a requirement of the work at any point going forward--and if you don't want to work under those conditions, your recourse is to stop working for him/her. Note that until you were told that the terms changed, you had to be paid per the previous terms or agreement.


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