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Informal survey: Independent Contractor vs. Part Time Employee

There is another thread called "Independent Contractor vs. Part Time Employee" but that is a discussion of a specific case.
This is a more general query to the choral community.
This query is for non-profit community choruses (not church or professional organizations where there is a head office and multiple employees).
1) Does your community chorus treat your director as an independent contractor or as an employee?
2) Do you know of any case where a community chorus has been challenged and/or penalized for classifying the director as a contractor?
- our community chorus has no office or employees - everything is volunteer except the musical staff
- our community chorus classifies the music director as a contractor
- our director would like to control most aspects of the chorus organization
- our board has said the director needs to accept guidance from the board regarding certain aspects of the music program
- our director has claimed that such "guidance" constitutes giving work directions that are more consistent with the treatment of an employee
- there have been subtle suggestions that the director could contact the IRS and make trouble for the organization and/or sue
Hence the query, to perhaps shed some light on prevailing practices in community choruses that have no business presence other than putting on occasional concerts.
Replies (5): Threaded | Chronological
on August 6, 2014 5:32am
Whether the director is an employee or contractor is irrelevant in terms of following work directives. If a hire a plumber, he/she is not an employee of mine, but an independent contractor. But he/she must do the services that I ask for!
But do you really want someone who is thinking of "making trouble" or suing you? That sounds like a rather confrontational relationship. Ultimately, the best solution is to not renew his/her contract when the time comes, and hire a new one with clearly stated expectations outlined in the contract.
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on August 6, 2014 9:24am
Yes, but if you hire a plumber he/she comes for a specific job and then goes away, i.e. the plumber is independent. Our chorus director comes repeatedly and at fixed times and at a fixed place and for a fixed price. I think in this case the IRS might look at this as on-going employment.
RE: expectations in contract
So, then does any chorus use a method of creating a contract per musical event (session or season) and put in that contract specific expectations? If so, how is that working?
on August 7, 2014 5:27am
My point was simply that, speaking solely in terms of being given directives for a work assignment, there is no difference between being an employee or an independent contractor.
With current business practices as they are, I know a number of long-term workers who are classified as "independent contractors." Whether it's a one-time deal or continuous work is irrelevant. 
The primary differences between being an employee or independent contractor lie largely in the realm of benefits (or lack thereof) and who handles the expected pay deductions (SS, income tax, etc.), and not work expectations.
on August 6, 2014 9:48am
I like James Maroney's point. My board grappled with this and wanted to error on the side of caution. They actually gave me the choice saying I should research the advantages of being an independant contractor. When I googled "advantage of being an independant contractor", one of the first points that came up was: You get to set your own prices. Hmmmm... not in my case. Also, there were lots of deduction scenarios that I wasn't or couldn't take advantage of so I told them I wanted to be an employee.
on August 7, 2014 9:31am
We (church) just went through an extensive audit regarding this issue with the state of Washington.  I am not an expert, but I will share with you our basic "take away" whether the organization is profit or non-profit, religious or not.   Do take into consideration there seems to be some discrepancy on the rules/guidelines from state to state, and that the state requirements may be inconsistent with the Federal rules.
If the contractor is being supervised, is required to perform thier job on a regular basis (e.g. weekly, vs. a "gig" a few times a year), at a specific time and place, then they are most likely considered an "employee".  Other mitigating factors seem to be whether the contractor is listed as "staff" in publications, the amount of time they may spend doing thier tasks off, vs. on campus, the method the contractor is being paid, whether (or how) the contractor bills the organization for thier work, and terminology (such as "hours" and "Time Sheets") being used in forms and documents.
Our section leaders, p.t. directors, and accompanist positions in the Music Ministry were all deemed to be employees, not contractors.  Our professional, "seasonal" instrumentalists, guest soloists, substitute organist, and the like, continue to be independent contractors.  A penalty was assessed for the error and the entire church was scrutinized, including caterers, etc. with corrections being made in some other areas as well.
We've also been required to receive billing statements from the contractor for thier work.  So, for example, whether we have 30 piece orchestra for a concert run or one Sunday, or a substitute organist for a service, each has to submit a bill for services rendered, in addition to the other usual federal/state documents.  
We likely triggered the audit because of the number of people we erroneously treated as independent contractors.  Regardless, save youself and your organization from a lot of hassles and headaches, and possibly fines, by making sure you know, and have correctly interpreted the Federal and State regulations.  Eventhough we had an HR professional advise us it turned out to be incorrect.
I hope this helps,
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