Is it legal for my employer to pay me only after a job is complete even though it may take months?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is it legal for my employer to pay me only after a job is complete even though it may take months?

My employer only pays me when job is complete, which varies from 1 week to

months at a time? Also, he gives me a 1099 form.

Asked on April 4, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

It depends on whether you are in fact an indepenent contractor (properly paid by a 1099) or an employee. An independent contractor, like a vendor or a professional, such as a lawyer, accountant, freelance graphic artist, etc., can be paid legally when a job is done. Independent contractors are not employees.
However, an employee must be paid every two weeks or twice a month.
Many employers mischaracterize employees as independent contractors--that is, they call employees (and pay them as) independent contractors when they are not. It doesn't matter what the employer wants to call an employee or whether they give them a 1099 or not; the issue is, does the worker meet the test or criteria to be an independent contractor or not. If they don't qualify as an independent contractor, they must be paid as an employee--every two weeks, having income tax withholding taken out, have the employer pay the employer potions of Medicare, social security, etc.
You can find the full criteria for when someone is an independent contractor on the U.S. Dept. of Labor website. But in brief, an independent contractor IS "independent" to a considerable degree: sets own hours; decides where to work for the most part; decides how to do the job; typically works for more than one person or client at a time; markets or advertises own services; provides own tools and equipment; etc. If this doesn't sound like you--if you work for one employer, during hours the employer chooses, at the employer's site, etc.--then you are most likely an employee and need to be paid as an employee.

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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