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Are Your Stable Workers “Independent Contractors”?

Some stables, in an attempt to save money, label their workers “independent contractors” instead of “employees.”  Be careful – this could be trouble waiting to happen.

The Differences

“Employees” and “independent contractors” are very different.  “Employers” control and direct their “employees” as to important details of how, when, and where the work must be done.

“Independent contractors,” by comparison, carry on an independent business and contract to do particular jobs or tasks.  Those hiring independent contractors can explain the end result they want but typically cannot control or instruct the worker on how to do the job.  Farriers are good examples of independent contractors since they use their own tools, serve different customers, set their own work schedules, and have the “know-how” to do the work independently.


Just because you have labeled your worker an “independent contractor” does not mean courts or the IRS will agree.  Employers that wrongly call their workers “independent contractors” risk serious consequences, even for well-intentioned mistakes.  For example, the IRS could impose harsh financial penalties.  If the worker is injured and sues the employer claiming to be an “employee,” a court could likewise impose harsh penalties on the business.

How the IRS Evaluates the Issue

Visit the IRS website (www.irs.gov) for more information.

How to Protect Yourself

Equine industry employers can seek to protect themselves in a few ways, including:

  • IRS Forms.  The IRS website provides and explains forms such as Form W-9 (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification) and Form 1099-MISC (Miscellaneous Income).
  • Seek advice.  Seek help from a lawyer or accountant.  Consider asking the IRS to make the determination by submitting a Form SS-8 (“Determination of Employee Work Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding”).
  • Confirm the Status.  Consider using a carefully worded contract that, among other things, confirms the status and that the contractor accepts responsibility for obligations such as liability insurance, self-employment taxes, health insurance, and withholdings.

Categories: Employment, Liability

Photo of Julie I. Fershtman

is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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Our Equine law blog (and its author) in the news!

Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.

Julie Fershtman’s Recent and Upcoming Equine Law Speaking Engagements Include:

National Conference on Equine Law in Louisville, Kentucky on April 29, 2020. Topic will be on Waivers/Releases of Liability Involving Minor Participants. 

U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado on December 10, 2019. Topic will be on Equine Liability. 

IRMI Emmett J. Vaughan Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”) in Sacramento, CA (April 2019), and Richmond, VA (June 2019) and in Des Moines, IA (September 2019), on topics of “Equine Activity Liability Acts” and “Equine Mortality Insurance Disputes.”

National Conference on Equine Law in May 2019 in Lexington, KY, on the topic of “Equine Activity Liability Act Updates” and liabilities involving hosting of equine clinics. 

Agricultural Claims Conference in Kansas City, MO, in March 2019 on topics of “Loose Livestock Liabilities.”

2018 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, on “Equine Mortality Coverage and Disputes.”

November 2018, American Horse Council webinar on “Equine Liability.”

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association

"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

What our Equine Law Services can Provide

Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.

Litigating disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).

Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals,  businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 


Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.

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