How far back can I go to claim unpaid wages as a 1099 contractor?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How far back can I go to claim unpaid wages as a 1099 contractor?

I am a dance teacher. Have been at the same studio for 12 years. I am paid on a 1099 basis, but am paid hourly and they set my class hours. First thing, I’m pretty sure I should have been an employee all this time. Second, I just resigned, and they shorted my last check for hours I worked because they say it was not required work, and I chose to do extra work. So now I’m a disgruntled ex-teacher, and I want to go back and sue for other wages. All teachers are required to be at photo day, dress rehearsal, and 2 shows. The handbook states this. Nothing in writing says that this is to be unpaid time, and yet, we have never gotten paid for it. Can I take them to small claims court and get paid for that time? I would

probably only go back for 9 years of it, because prior to that, there was a different business owner.

Asked on June 12, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) If they have been controlling your hours and generally managing how you do your job, then yes, you most likely were an employee, regardless of what they called you (the law ignores what you call the relationship, and rather looks to its realities). The degree of control you describe over your job generally means "employee" not "contractor." (An "independent contractor" has a large degree of "independence"  as the term implies.) That means that you should have been receiving overtime if you worked more than 40 hours in a week; the employer should have paid the employer share of social security, etc. withholding for you; and you possibly should have received benefits, if offered to any other employees.
2) Whether employee or contractor, you have to be paid for all worked done--they can't short you saying you "chose" to do extra work.
3) If an employee, you can go back 2 years on a wage claim.
A good thing to try first would be to conrtact your state department of labor and file a wage and hour and "misclassification" complaint--they may be able to help you. If not, then you should be able to sue for any monies due you. Good luck. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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