People in California work many different types of jobs and also work in many different capacities. Some are the owners of their companies or are self-employed in some way. Others are formal employees for a company and others are somewhat in between self-employed and being an employee and work as independent contractors. When someone is an independent contractor, they are not employees and therefore generally do not have the same protections as employees.
One of these protections is that generally an independent contractor is not protected by discrimination laws. This means that as independent contractors, they would not be able to sue a company if they felt that they were the victims of a wrongful termination. However, there are some situations where an independent contractor is actually considered an employee under the law despite the fact that their contract may state they are an independent contractor.
There are many factors that are analyzed to make this determination. While there are different factors depending on which agency is making the determination, the Department of Labor looks at factors such as the independent contractors investment in the company's profits and losses; how the contractor's managerial skills and responsibilities affect profits and losses; the length of the contract; how much independent control the contractor has over the work they perform and other factors. After analyzing these, if the contractor is deemed an employee, they then have the same protections including protections against harassment.
There are many independent contractors in California and they perform many different types of jobs. Each situation and each contract are unique, however, some independent contractors are considered employees and should be given the same rights. These are clearly high fact-specific matters, but it can be important to make the determination if an independent contractor believes they were wrongfully terminated. Experienced attorneys understand these matters and may be a useful resource.