Should I be required to pay rent have no days off if I live where I work?

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Should I be required to pay rent have no days off if I live where I work?

I am employed at a full service pet care company in MA. My job is to be
responsible for all the dogs that board with us at the company’s private
home. This private home is owned by my employer and in order to take on
the job I had to move there to live on site our clients want someone there
24/7. At first this sounded great, but after a few months of work and no
scheduled days off I started to feel like something wasn’t right. I have other
employees coming in and out of the house dropping off dogs and all of my
belongings get destroyed from having so many dogs in the home that I live
in. I understand that this is the obligation of my job, but my employer also
requires that I pay a rent of 1200/month to live there. So I essentially pay
to work, with no days off and no cleaning supplies given to me. I was also
paid as an independent contractor for the first few months of employment,
and recently was switched to a salary of 30,000/year. When I was an
independent contractor they also had be sign a Non-compete form saying
that I would not work for any other pet care companies or for myself. I feel
trapped and not sure what to do, what are my rights here?

Asked on August 17, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is good news and bad news:
1) You can be required to pay rent for space provided by your employer at the worksite--there is nothing illegal about his. (For example: I work part time for an attorney with a more-established practice and also rent from him.) That's the bad news.
The good news--though it means litigation and/or filing a complaint with a government agency (the department of labor):
2) If you work only for one employer and the employer controls where you work and your hours--and presumably, otherwise can direct or manage how you do the job--you are almost certainly NOT an independent contractor. You can find the criteria to be an independent contractor on the U.S. Department of Labor website--compare them to your job. If you are not an independent contractor, you are an employee; if an employee, the employer must pay the employer portion of income tax withholding for you, may need to provide benefits (like health care), has to make unemployment contributions on your behalf, etc.
3) Furthermore, if you are an employee, your salary is so relatively low you can get overtime; that means that you have to be paid extra any time you work more than 40 hours in a week which, if you get no time off, may be every week.
You can potentially recover unpaid taxes, benefits, and overtime for the last 2 years you have worked for this employer. You are strongly advised to contact your state department of labor as a first step.


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