Iowa Department of Labor

The Division of Labor Services is responsible for several programs all designed to protect the health, safety and fiscal security of its citizens. They protect the rights of employees to be free from danger in the workplace, to be paid fair wages, and protect children from working in dangerous industries and helps to advance their education. The programs are also designed to protect those who ride escalators, elevators, amusement rides or enters public buildings that have boilers or are currently or have undergone asbestos abatement. The Division enforces safety in the workplace, provides consultation to employers on occupational safety health compliance and maintains statistical information of workers’ illness and injuries.

Employers can learn about potential hazards at their worksites and improve their occupational safety and health management systems by using free consultation services. These services are offered confidentially and without fear of citations.

The IOSH program is a separate bureau and is aimed at reducing injury and illness incidences by enhancing the employer’s ability to identify and control potential hazards. Citations are proposed where violations are found. The Education section offers a variety of safety education videos free of charge to the public along with a wide selection of OSHA publications and informational fact sheets. The Division protects employees by coding work-related injuries and illnesses involving days away from work and analyzing the information to reduce hazards.

The Iowa Division of Labor enforces the states minimum wage and wage payment collection laws and they process claims relating to unpaid wages, vacation pay, unpaid expenses and minimum wage laws. They enforce child labor laws and require those under 16 to obtain work permits.

The division protects public safety by enforcing Iowa’s elevator and escalator safety codes; they enforce amusement ride safety standards. Amusement operators must obtain permits to work in Iowa and their equipment must pass inspection. They also protect public health by enforcing licensing and permitting requirements for asbestos abatement activities.

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43 Thoughts on “Iowa Department of Labor”

David C. Telliho

October 15, 2008 at 11:41 am

Would you be able to answer a brief question? Can a former employee request a copy of his employment file in Iowa ?

Amelia

October 15, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Hi David! We’d be delighted to answer a brief question. Under Iowa law, an employee can request anything that he wants. However, the employer is under no obligation to supply a copy of the employee personnel records or employment file.

Several states do have laws requiring that employees receive copies of their employment files. Iowa does not.

For a more complete anwer, feel free to post your questions on our sister site at http://www.humanresourceblog.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Jackie McEwen

December 22, 2008 at 1:02 pm

In the state of Iowa can a salary exempt employee be required to use a vacation day to cover a shut down day?

Amelia

December 22, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Hi Jackie! Yes. Employers can legally dictate when an employee uses his or her vacation days. There is no law that an employer must provide paid vacations. If they do, the employer can set whatever policies they like regarding vacations.

Under federal law, the exempt employee must be paid when the employer shuts down for a single day. But the law does not prohibit the employer from requiring that exempt employees use a vacation day. If the employee had no vacation days left, he or she would still have to be paid under the law (unless the shut down was for an entire payroll week.) You can also post questions on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

fritz

February 21, 2009 at 9:58 am

Message HI. Can you tell me the article number in Iowa code that mandates timely payment of employees?

Amelia

February 21, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Hi Fritz! Actually, Iowa has several sections of code that mandate timely payment of wages. The most recent is Iowa Code 91A.3, which permits employers to mail checks only with the employees written authorization.

Read more about this at: http://www.iowaworkforce.org/labor/wage.htm HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Jon

February 21, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Message
Are paid vacations part of compensation in the state of Iowa? Can employers terminate and not compensate for accrued vacation days?

Amelia

February 23, 2009 at 10:13 am

Hi Jon! Iowa employers are not required to offer paid vacations, and they are not considered wages under Iowa law. However, if the employer has a written policy or past practice of paying employees for vacation time at termination, the Iowa Workforce Commission may require the emloyer to do so.

Read more about this at: http://www.iowaworkforce.org/labor/wagefaqs.pdf HTH and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Elizabeth

March 13, 2009 at 10:13 pm

When receiving a shift differential, does the company have to pay that shift differential when the employee takes a vacation day?

Amelia

March 14, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Hi Elizabeth! No, shift differentials are not usually paid for vacation days. There is no law that an employer must offer benefits like the shift differential or paid vacations. If the employer does, usually the employer can set whatever policies they like regarding them. It is most unusual for an employer to pay a shift differential when an employee is not actually at work. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

SG

May 25, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Salaried employee termination vs resigning
how does it affect unemployment benefits
If a severance package is on the table does it matter if you allow them to terminate or do you have to resign

Amelia

May 26, 2009 at 8:44 am

Hi SG! In most states, an employee who resigns is not eligible for unemployment benefits. Many times, the employer offers a severance package to avoid paying higher unemployment insurance rates. Often the severance package will specify that the employee is resigning and is not eligible for unemployment benefits. The employee should carefully weigh whether the severance package includes more benefits than they will be entitled to through unemployment — or try to negotiate an agreement to be laid off.
So from the employees point of view, ideally, it would be better to be terminated — laid off — rather than resign.
Many employees assume that it is better to resign, but they are mistaken. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Tori

July 7, 2009 at 8:29 am

Message
I Live and work in Iowa. If the position I work in is eliminated by the company and they want to move me to a different position, can they lower my wages if that new position pays less? The reassignment is not due to performance or behavioral issues. It was a company decision. Thank-You.

Amelia

July 7, 2009 at 11:27 am

Hi Tori! The short answer is yes. The company has eliminated your postion, meaning they are going to lay you off. Instead of being laid off, they are offering you a new position — at a lower salary. There is no requirement that they have to pay you more than they normally would for that position.
You can elect not to accept the new position. In that case, you will most likely qualify for unemployment benefits, especially if the new position pays significantly less or has significantly different duties. Be aware, however, that if you accept the new job and work in it for even a day or two, you may no longer qualify for unemployment. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

amhewitt8393

August 7, 2009 at 7:38 am

is there a law that says if you work for so long ie 12 months as parttime you have to be upgraded to fulltime and or offered benefits

Amelia

August 7, 2009 at 11:18 am

Hi amhewitt8393! No, there is no law that a part-time employee must be offered a full-time job, at any point, ever. There are many people who work part-time for 20 or 30 years. Often, the employee only wants to work part-time.
Sometimes an employee will accept a part-time job in the hope that after they “prove themselves” they will be offered a full-time job. However, there is no law that requires this. (A few employers such as the Post Office do have this policy.)
There is no federal or state law that employees must be offered benefits, ever. This is true of both part-time and full-time employees.
It sounds like you have a part-time job, and would prefer a full-time job with benefits. The best solution would probably be to look for a full-time job. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

douglas devaney

December 11, 2009 at 7:08 am

an employer who claims to pay holiday pay, can they not pay you if the holiday lands on a saturday or sunday? or in this instance, christmas lands on a friday so they move our hours to 10 hrs, monday thru thursday to avoid paying for christmas holiday.

Amelia

December 11, 2009 at 8:50 am

Hi douglas! Unfortunately, this is entirely legal. There is no law that an employer must offer paid holidays, ever. If the employer offers paid holidays, the employer establishes the policies that govern holiday pay, and can change those policies at any time. The employer can certainly establish a policy that employees are not paid for any holiday that falls on a non-work day. The employer can also manipulate the schedule so that Friday is a non-work day.
If the employer had a written policy of paying for holidays that fall on a Friday, in some states the Department of Labor or courts would enforce that policy. However, again, the employer could change that policy at any point, as long as employees were informed in advance. We agree that your employer is acting like Scrooge, but what he/she is doing is legal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

douglas devaney

December 12, 2009 at 9:08 pm

to amelia… thank you for response

Amelia

December 13, 2009 at 9:26 am

Hi again douglas! You are very welcome! Feel free to ask any additional questions you might have!~ Amelia

douglas

December 19, 2009 at 8:04 pm

hello amelia…would taking care of a child with down syndrom fall under the americanns with disabilites act

Amelia

December 20, 2009 at 7:27 am

Hi douglas! Probably not in the sense that you mean. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, an employer must make reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability. A blind employee may be entitled to a computer program that reads the screen aloud, or an employee in a wheelchair may be entitled to a ramp. When your child is old enough to work, he or she will be protected under ADA. However, the ADA does not require an employer to make reasonable accommodations for an employee who is a relative of someone with a disability. If your mother or child has a permanent disability, that does not entitle you to time off or other special benefits.

The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee based on an association with a disabled person. So, for example, if you are otherwise qualified for a promotion, your boss cannot deny it simply because you have a child with a disability. But this provision only requires that the employer treat you the same as other employees.

The federal FMLA or Family and Medical Leave Act permits an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period to care for a son or daughter under 18 with a serious health condition. FMLA leave can be taken intermittently, to reduce your total work load. However, it is not clear if Down’s Syndrome would qualify as a serious health condition under FMLA. Normally, to qualify as a serious health condition, a disorder must require ongoing medical treatment and repeated doctor’s visits, or hospitalization. The employer has the right to have the family member’s serious health condition recertified every 6 months. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

Betty

March 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I’m wondering if a non-exempt employee who records her time manually must be paid for hours submitted if the employer has evidence from video security cameras that proves the employee was not present at the work site during the time the employee states she was? This occurred repeatedly, the employee was terminated, and claims she is entitled by Wage and Hour regs to be paid for all hours submitted, even those found to be fraudulently recorded/submitted. Does the employer have grounds for criminal charges against this employee?

Amelia

March 1, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Hi Betty! No, the employer does not owe the employee money and no there are probably no grounds for criminal charges against the employee.

Under both federal and Iowa law, an employee must be paid for all the time he or she works. That’s not all the time she puts on her time sheet, it’s all the time she is on the employer’s premesis or actively engaged in work. Suppose Cara arrives at work on Tuesday at 9 am, but turns in a time sheet showing that she arrived at 7 am. You do not owe Cara for the time between 7 am and 9 am, because she did not work that time.

The situation would be different if Cara actually performed work between 7 am and 9 am, even if she did it from another location. Or, if you required Cara to wait for work on your premises between 7 am and 9 am, then she would be entitled to payment for that time.

There is absolutely no requirement under any law that an employee be paid for hours she did not work, even if she submits fraudulent documents claiming that she did work.

Falsifying time sheets, payroll records or other company documents is gross misconduct and you are right to fire this employee. If she had been paid for this time, you might have a fraud case against her. However, since it appears that she was not paid for this time, it is hard to see what crime she would be charged with. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

CHris G

April 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Under Iowa labor law, what defines a part time employee? It appears there is no federal standard as long as hours in excess of 40 are paid and 1.5 times the hourly wage. Is there an Iowa code that defines part tie employment by the numbers of hours worked? Can a part time employee have mandated over time?

Amelia

April 23, 2010 at 9:27 am

Hi CHris! There is no state or federal law that defines part-time or full-time employment. This is a matter of company policy rather than employment law. The only law involved, as you have noted, is the overtime law requiring that employees be paid 1.5 times the usual rate when working more than 40 hours per week.

To put it another way, under the law, an employer can hire someone to work 3 hours per week or 100 hours per week. As long as the employer abides by the overtime law, this is perfectly legal.

There is no law that an employer has to provide benefits like paid sick leave, paid vacations to full time or part time employees.

An employer can unilaterally change an employee’s work hours. So even if the employee is hired to work 12 hours per week, the employer can suddenly require that she work 25 hours per week or 45 hours per week. Yes, a part-time employee can have mandated overtime — meaning be required to work more than 40 hours per week.

If some employees have benefits, and employees of a different race, color, sex, national ancestry, religion, etc. working similar hours do not have benefits, that may be illegal discrimination. But otherwise, mandatory overtime for part-time employees is legal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Judy

May 9, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Message
My employer informed me that during an 11 hour shift I am not entitled to an off the clock lunch break for 30 minutes.I work at a convience store.

Amelia

May 9, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Hi Judy! Unfortunately, this is legal in Iowa. Like 30 other states, there is no law that requires an Iowa employer to give meal or rest breaks to employees. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Chris

June 16, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Hi Amelia,
Here’s another question for you. Is an employer allowed to require an employee to commute at their own expense to go to an assigned workplace? The specific situation is a home health care nurse who works out of a central office is now being told that the first trip (90 minutes) to a client is not paid time, nor is the last return trip of the day back to the office. Clients are assigned to the nurse by the office staff.
There is also talk that any travel will not be paid as that is not rendering service to a client. Are these legal work conditions?
Thanks,
Chris

Amelia

June 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Hi Chris! We are going to assume that this worker is an employee (not an independent contractor) and that the agency is covered by the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act.

Under the FLSA, an employee need not be paid for the commute to and from work. If you compare this to other occupations, an accountant is not paid to drive to work at the accounting office. A restaurant chef is not paid to drive to the restaurant.

However, under federal law this applies only to the normal commuting range for that area. Any employee who is on short term assignment out of the normal commuting area must be paid for the drive, under federal law. In most areas, a 90-minute drive is not considered the normal commuting range. In a very large city like Chicago, it might be inside the normal commuting range. Our guess is that you are entitled to payment for a 90-minute commute, or at least a portion of it. If the commute was 20 minutes, you probably would not be entitled to payment for it. (If the commute varies from day to day, you may be entitled to payment for it sometimes.) File a complaint for unpaid wages with the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov or the Iowa Division of Labor Services. They will investigate and see if you are owed money. The employer cannot legally retaliate against an employee who files a complaint.

Under the same law, when an employee is driving from one worksite to another during the day, that is always paid work time. Example: A worker reports to the main office, then drives to Location A and works for half a day, then drives to Location B and works for half a day, then drives home. The worker is always entitled to payment for the drive from the main office to Location A, and from Location A to Location B. Again, if you are not being paid for this time file a complaint with the US Department of Labor or the Iowa Division of Labor Services at http://www.iowaworkforce.org/labor/wage.htm

Unfortunately, home health care workers are not always covered under state and federal minimum wage laws, but at least if you call them they can let you know for sure which laws apply in your situation. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Use the “hours worked advisor” at the bottom of this page for more info on the federal law: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/

Tracie

June 16, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Amelia,
I am the nurse that Chris is speaking of in the above situation. The company was letting us start out our day at the office then drive to location A and I was being paid my hourly wage for this. Today however they changed policy to say that we can no longer start our day at the office and will not be paid hourly wage until we get to our first location. For me personally and a few other workers it means that we now drive up to 90 minutes away to get to our first location and are not receiving hourly pay for it, but for others that work for the company that see clients closer to the office are only losing about 5 minutes of pay because thier clients are in the same city as the main office. So do you take this to mean that if my hours are 8 – 1630 and I drive an hour out of town to start my day do I then start my day at 8AM and use my companys time for the drive or start my day at 7 and use my own free time to get to location A?

Amelia

June 16, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Hi Tracie! You may be entitled to payment for the 90 minute drive to the first worksite of the day, or to payment for a portion of the 90-minute drive. Again, this depends upon what the U.S. Department of Labor considers the “normal commuting area” for your region. In Chicago or LA, a 90-minute commute would be considered within the “normal commuting area” and you would not be entitled to payment for drive time. In a small town in Iowa, it would not be within the “normal commuting area” and you would be entitled to drive time.

An employee who drove only 20 or 30 minutes to the first job site would not be entitled to travel time in any area.

When you were reporting to the office and then driving to the worksite, the company was paying you appropriately. You were not paid to commute to and from the office, but you were paid to travel from the office to the worksite.

If the company permanently assigned you to the new location, then they would never have to pay you for the commute. (The assumption being that you could move closer to the new location, and if you did not, the longer commute would be your choice.) However, it sounds like the work assignments change from time to time, so there is no location you could move to where you would always be within normal commuting range.

Our best guess is that you are out of the normal commuting range and the company must either a) pay your travel time or b) pay your travel time minus the travel time to the main office. (Example: the main office is 30 minutes away, you are now driving 90 minutes to the worksite. The company could pay you for the difference, meaning 90-30= pay you for 60 minutes of travel time.) But the only way to know for sure is to use the “Hours worked” elaws advisor below, and to contact the U.S. Department of Labor if you think you may be entitled to payment.

By law, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee who contacts the U.S. Department of Labor, even if their investigation shows that the employee is not owed any money.

Your question is irrelevant. If the employer says you must be at the job site at 8 am, then you need to leave at 6:30 am or earlier. The question is, “Do they have to pay me for any of the drive time?” Again, our best guess is “Yes” but only the Iowa Division of Labor Services or U.S. Department of Labor can tell for sure. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

See the eLaws Advisor for hours worked at the bottom of this page: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/

Katina

September 24, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Amelia,

Does an employer have to pay back pay if they are late on the annual review & raise, assuming the employee is entitled to a raise? Katina

Amelia

September 25, 2010 at 7:49 am

Hi Katina! No, unfortunately, there is no law that an employer must do annual reviews on time, or make any raise retroactive. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

leo

December 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

In mid-summer, I inadvertently damaged a trailer at our trucking business. Boss was mad, I get it it, life went on. In November, a load shifted in New Jersey requiring a small crane to reset. On November 18th, I was cited (I do plan to fight this) for following too close.t This was my first ticket in over 15 yrs. I was fired the next day. I received 2 more paychecks with a $50 deduction for the crane. Accrued vacation time however, is being withheld. Can they do this?

Amelia

December 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Hi leo! In Iowa, the employer must pay unused vacation at termination unless there is a written policy in place. If the employer has a written policy that employees are not paid for unused vacation, the employer can legally follow that policy. In some cases an employer will have a written policy in place that employees who are terminated for cause will not be paid for unused vacation. This is also legal in Iowa. HTH,and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

March 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Is there a specific time frame in which an employee must submit a doctor’s excuse to the employer in the state of Iowa? Our company is experiencing difficulties with employees calling in sick and not providing a doctor’s slip until a week later.

Amelia

March 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Hi Rachel! This is a matter of company policy rather than employment law, in Iowa and other states.

You can require that the employee present the doctor’s excuse on the day he returns to work, and discipline any employee who fails to do so. One purpose of the doctor’s excuse is to show that the employee had a serious illness and went to the doctor on the day he was absent. Supplying a doctor’s note a week later, for a different visit, is not the same.

We promise that once an employee has been written up, he will remember to bring in his doctor’s note from then on.

You can and probably should require that the employee present a doctor’s release to return to work on the day the employee returns. A second purpose of the doctor’s note is for the doctor to assure the employer that the employee is well enough to work. You would be within your rights not to let the employee return to work, until he presented this document.

Different rules would apply if the employee were on FMLA leave. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Tess

March 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm

My employer pulled checks from the paycheck tray after the uniforms we had ordered arrived. They were taken to another room for pick up with the uniforms. No one was told about this until the next day when several people became very upset and were afraid their checks had been stolen or lost, or they simply had not been paid. Upon questioning their decision, we were told that the checks were not being held. This was just a reminder to pick up the uniforms we had ordered. My check has been in this other room for a week, as I feel this is unlawful. I know I am being stubborn, but do they even have a right to touch my paycheck? And how do I tell them this is unlawful?

Amelia

March 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Hi Tess! Of course the employer has the right to touch paychecks. Otherwise, where would they come from? The good payroll fairy??

Seriously, there is nothing very unusual about this. Many employers routinely take advantage of payday to hand out uniforms, memos, handbooks, insurance information or other documents with paychecks. Payday is the one time that an employer can be sure of seeing every employee, one-on-one. Ideally, the employer would have communicated this new procedure more clearly, perhaps by leaving a note in the tray stating when and where checks were available.

Iowa has a payday law that requires employers to pay workers on payday. If an employee asked for his or her paycheck, and was denied it, then that person would have a valid complaint. He or she could file a wage claim with the Iowa Workforce Development department. The same is true if the employee requested her paycheck, but was told she had to do something (pay for uniforms?) before she received it. But in your case, you know where your check is and apparently it is available anytime you would like to pick it up. You just choose not to pick up your check. You are 100% within your rights to leave your paycheck there if you want — but the employer has not done anything wrong.

The only part of this situation that really concerns us is that paychecks are left in a tray in the first place, where apparently they could be stolen. Frankly, the procedure of putting them in another room where employees have to sign for them seems much more reasonable and secure. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

January 22, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Hi Amelia,

You posted the following answer to a quest David asked:

“Hi David! We’d be delighted to answer a brief question. Under Iowa law, an employee can request anything that he wants. However, the employer is under no obligation to supply a copy of the employee personnel records or employment file.”
In 1990 the Iowa legislature enacted a law providing that employees shall have access to and shall be permitted to obtain a copy of their personnel records. Iowa Code §91B.1.An employee specifically has a right to obtain performance evaluations, disciplinary records, and other information concerning the employer-employees relationship. So, the employer does have a legal obligation to supply the “current “ employees with all of that personnel information.

Daniel

April 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm

An eight week, complete remodel job for a restaurant in Waterloo IA. was contracted out of MN. to [company name deleted] of MN.and then subbed out of MN to [company name deleted] of MN. and I, a carpenter living in Cedar Falls, IA. answered an ad listed by the sub GSD Construction company for a ‘Finish Carpenter’ on this remodel.

The week prior to the commencement date I spoke with the owner, Greg, of the subcontractor co. and he explained what my required duties would be, Greg suggested that I go to the site and meet with the Superintendents, a day super, Brian and nite super Eric employed by the company as they would be in charge of the remodel and were on site at that time organizing the materials and equipment necessary for the job. Brian and Eric would oversee the remodel from start to finish and I would be working directly under them therefore answerable to them.
Via email the company sent instructions on how to be employed by them, Greg required me to to fill out a W-9, I complied, use their, company Time Card’, I complied, and send in my Certificate of Insurance…”I do not have Insurance and never have”, therefore I did not supply this document.
As I didn’t have a Certificate of Insurance, I did not send one, nothing more was mentioned about this Certificate of Insurance on any phone/text communication or through emails again I until I had completed my sixth week of employment, filled out all my Employee Weekly Time Cards and been paid for the most part up to that time (less some receipted expenses). I worked 57 straight nites and completed the remodel, we were signed off by the company and the restaurant franchise, but to this date I have still not been paid my final (164 hours of work) $4100 and $312.30 for expenses totaling $4412.00, while I have in writing that the company owes this money they refuse to pay it until I supply a Certificate of Insurance.
Initially when this demand was made, I sought advice from my Insurance Company and they assured me that no Insurance Company would sell me insurance for a job that was completed.
I consulted a Legal adviser on the same point and he agreed that he could not see any Insurance Company that would do this retroactively and if I did find someone that would they would probably want in excess of $4000.00 to do this because it would be outside the law.
I know that the company has been paid and also the subcontractor has been paid and the restaurant franchise has had their remodel completed on time. And here I sit, the one that in fact was there working from start to finish doing the work, 8 months later still out of pocket a full third of my wages.I this ‘Legal”?
Did I need this Certificate of Insurance by Iowa Law, and what recourse do I have at this point?

Amelia

July 1, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Daniel, this is a tough situation and you have our sympathy. Unfortunately, there may not be a lot we or anyone can do for you in this situation. When you complete a W-9, you are an independent contractor or small businessman, not an “employee” in the legal sense. That means many of the laws that protect employees don’t apply to you. Sadly, this includes the laws regarding payment of wages.

Even though you live in Iowa, because you were working in Minnesota, the Minnesota laws apply. Laws on construction workers and independent contractors in the construction industry vary from state to state, however, it is very, very common for construction firms to only hire independent contractors who can provide proof of insurance. It’s a normal part of doing business. You are partly to blame here. The company made it clear that they needed an insurance certificate from you and you failed to provide one. (And of course no insurance company is going to provide it retroactively…it wouldn’t be ethical or legal.)

Unfortunately, when you are an independent contractor, you don’t have an employer, you have clients. One of the risks is that the client will not pay you the money he owes you–which seems to have happened here. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but there is not a lot that can be done about it. You may have to chalk this up to a very expensive lesson in operating your own business as a carpenter.

The best solution we can suggest is that you take the contractor and/or subcontractor and/or restaurant chain to small claims court (in Minnesota) to try to collect the money they owe you. Some companies might pay you all or part of the money, just to make the case go away. Although you don’t need an attorney in small claims court or “Conciliation Court” as it’s called in MN, it might be helpful to speak to a lawyer in MN before you file. You or your attorney may be able to make a good case that the contractor knew you didn’t have insurance, and hired you anyway. Under many construction contracts, the contractor was not entitled to final payment by the restaurant chain, until they certified that all the independent contractors (you) had been paid. So a judge might see it your way. Wishing you the best of luck!

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