Classifying lawn care employees as subcontractors = big problems.

As we operate our businesses over time, we should implement procedures that make our operations work smoother and more efficient. We shouldn’t be looking for a quick short cut but instead create a system that works and is repeatable over time. As important as this is, there will always be those business owners who would rather try to figure out a quick way to scam the system. The problem with doing that is, one small problem can set into motion a chain of events that can potentially take your business down. Let’s look at this situation, posted on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, and see how a small issue turned into a bigger and bigger problem.

One ex-lawn care employee wrote “Here is my situation. My husband started working for a lawn care company in March of last year until September. He did not have any lawn care/landscaping experience before he took this job because he lost his job and at the time, this was the only job he could find.

The lawn care company he worked for – the owners, a wife and husband team (the wife is the legal owner of the business and her husband helps her since he does not have a job) bought the company from someone else that started it. These owners did not have lawn care/landscaping experience at all. In addition, they never managed a business before either. The company has about 50 lawn care accounts and the wife and husband managed it. For employees they had hired my husband and one other worker.

In September, my husband was told to weed-eat a small courtyard with pea-gravel by the owners. My husband did it. The weed-eater kicked up some of the gravel and broke the house owner’s window. My husband apologized to the owners of the lawn care company and they said it was not a big deal.

About a week after this happened my husband found another job working for the city. He was not happy working for the lawn care company because he was working on 15% commission and there were a lot of times when my husband’s paycheck just did not add up. We both spoke to the lawn care company about this several times and they had every reason in the book or excuse for the pay difference – one of the excuses being, ‘well we cut gas money from your paycheck’ or ‘our leaf blower broke so we cut that money.’ We bit our tongues because my husband needed the job until he found something better.

So, after the window accident my husband found another job. He told them he was leaving and they went nuts. They told him it was his fault the window broke and their business insurance will not pay for it. In addition, they did not pay him his last paycheck. At that time we were not concerned about the last paycheck because we were glad he no longer had to work for these people.

We did not hear anything from them until this week. They sent a certified letter to my husband stating the window broke due to my husband’s negligence and their business insurance does not pay for it because the deductible is too high. So, they paid for it out of the operating expenses and now they want their $196 dollars back. They enclosed a copy of the receipt for the window.

In addition, in the letter they stated my husband borrowed $300 dollars from them, paid $250 dollars back, and that they want the $50 dollars to be repaid. Well, my husband never borrowed any money from them and he never signed a paper saying he did nor were they able to mail any proof of this supposed loan.

In the end of the letter, they say if my husband does not pay the $196 dollars plus the $50 dollars back they will take him to civil court.

We just mailed them a letter out today (certified) stating my husband never borrowed money from them and to explain the $300 dollars, and to provide proof of the borrow. We told them we would not pay for the window because my husband followed their instructions for that yard and the window breaking was an accident, and that this goes along with owning a business, and being responsible for it.

My husband was hired as a sub-contractor and was told he will receive a 1099 form from them. He will have to pay his own tax for this job. This is another thing we are kicking ourselves about because when he first started working for them I asked if they would be paying his taxes and they said yes, but I never got that in writing. Later they decided to change it and not pay his taxes. Live and learn - unfortunately it was the only job he could find for six months.

After doing a little research, I learned this lawn care company wasn’t treating m y husband like a sub-contractor. So their decision to classify him as a sub-contractor and pay him as such with a 1099 form is wrong on their part. So now we will be following up with the IRS. At first, I had no clue about the requirements for a 1099 but now I do.

I decided to send them a letter back stating we are not paying and explaining that we do not think my husband should be classified as a 1099 worker, but instead, as a regular employee. And if they send him a 1099 form, we will proceed to send the IRS an SS-8 form to contest the classification.

That letter must have thrown them for a loop because we did not hear back from them for sometime. In the end, we received a W-2 form in the mail, rather than the 1099 his former boss was saying she was going to send. So, the scare of us contacting the IRS must have worked.  I still have not heard anything else regarding their threat of civil court because it’s probably not going to happen now.

In the end, my husband and I are both happy that the lawn company paid his taxes and covered the cost of the window repairs as they should have done from the onset.”

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success