Independent contractors not entitled to retirement benefits or other fringe benefits

Independent contractors not entitled to retirement benefits or other fringe benefits
Araneo v Town Bd. for Town of Clarkstown, 55 AD3d 516

Michael Araneo was the owner, president, and sole employee of a corporation: Michael Araneo, Inc. In 1970 Araneo began performing work for the Town of Clarkstown at the Town dump and on September 15, 1997, on behalf of the corporation, signed an agreement with the Town providing that the corporation would perform certain services at the Town's solid waste facility and other facilities.

This contract expressly provided that the corporation and its employees would be acting as independent contractors and were not to be considered employees of the Town.

Araneo submitted vouchers to the Town Comptroller for payment and the payment was generally made to the corporation. The Town did not withhold taxes or insurance, and that the corporation paid the requisite taxes and insurance on behalf of Araneo. In addition, the corporation carried liability insurance, maintained its own offices, and that the Town paid the corporation more than an individual employee would have been paid for the same work. Further, Araneo used “many of his own tools” in performing his work and “was not instructed on how to perform the work he did for the Town.”

On January 8, 2002, Araneo sued the Town, for a judgment declaring that effective July 3, 1978 and through and including January 14, 2005, he was a Town employee entitled to all benefits enjoyed by such employees, including but not limited to, pension rights, health care, vacation time, sick leave, and personal time.

The Appellate Division said that “The determination of whether one is an employee or an independent contractor requires examination of all aspects of the arrangement between the parties,” although "the critical inquiry . . . pertains to the degree of control exercised by the purported employer over the results produced or the means used to achieve the results." Other elements include “assessing control include whether the worker (1) worked at his own convenience, (2) was free to engage in other employment, (3) received fringe benefits, (4) was on the employer's payroll and (5) was on a fixed schedule." Significantly, the court said “the fact that a contract exists designating a person as an independent contractor is to be considered, but is not dispositive.

In this instance, said the court, the record plainly establishes that, at all times at issue, Araneo was an independent contractor to the Town and not a Town employee. Consequently, Araneo was held not to be an employee of the Town of Clarkstown at any time from July 3, 1978, to January 14, 2005.

The full text of the decision is posted on the Internet at: