Is a court Reporter an Independent Contractor or an Employee

November 15, 2018

Many deposition court reporters are attracted to the
profession because, while it can be intense, busy, and stressful, they have
more control over their schedule than a typical 9-to-5 job allows. A vast
percentage of deposition reporters are independent contractors, meaning they
don’t have the obligations or the benefits of an employee/employer relationship
with court reporting firms.

Since court reporters value flexibility, and court reporting firms
don’t want the burden of fixed overhead in a cyclical business, it’s been a
win-win situation. Independent contractor court reporters provide their own
equipment, aren’t required to accept all deposition assignments a firm sends
their way, are responsible for paying their own taxes (though they get to write
off mileage, equipment, professional dues, supplies, et cetera), but are only
paid for depositions they take. This is a classic example of an independent
contractor arrangement.

Fallout from the California Supreme Court’s ruling this year
in Dynamex is changing things for that
state’s independent contractors, however, and unsuspecting court reporting firms
could be hit in the wallet if their contracts and behavior don’t line up with
the new law. The ruling in the case was meant to discourage companies who expected
employee-type behaviors from independent contractors (drivers, in this case)
while not guaranteeing them a set number of hours or providing them with

The Dynamex ruling
set out an ABC test to determine if a worker is an independent contractor or an

A – The worker is free from the
control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the
work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;

B – The worker performs work that
is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and

C – The worker is customarily
engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the
same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

With that definition, court reporting firms will have to
ensure that they don’t exert any type of employer-type control over court
reporters (both in contract language and in practice), that they don’t have
court reporter employees on staff, and that reporters are free to provide
deposition services to other clients to make sure they don’t run afoul of this new law.