Can I be forced to work for free?

I am a yoga instructor working as an independent contractor. I am paid per student in my classes. A studio I work in is offering a low cost promotion and is asking me to take students into my classes that they don’t want to pay me to teach. Can they legally not pay me when I wasn’t asked if I would be willing to participate in their promotion?

Asked on October 17, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) From a legal standpoint, the issue is what are the terms of your agreement wiith the studio--that is, under what terms do you work? As an independent contractor, your working arrangements are governed by the contract, or agreement, between you and the studio. If that agreement requires you to provide some free hours or classes for promotions; if not, you don't have to do so.

2) Practically, the issue is even if you can't be required to provide free classes, remember that unless you have a strong contract going forward--e.g. one guarantying you certain hours, work, classes, accessibility to studio space for a set time (whatever it is that is valuable to you), if you don't work with the studio and help them with the promotion, they choose to terminate the relationship with you at some early opportunity, or else reduce your hours, accessibility, classes, etc. You should look at your agreement with them to see how strong a bargaining position you are in.


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