Golf Caddies: Independent Contractors or Employees?

A common problem at golf clubs throughout New York and New Jersey is the misclassification of caddies and other golf club employees. Caddies are frequently classified as independent contractors and not paid overtime when they are legally entitled to it. But many are actually employees, according to the criteria established by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you believe your employment rights at a golf club have been violated, you may have a valid wage and hour claim. 

The Misclassification of Caddies Can Result in Legal Liabilities for Golf Clubs

The IRS employee classification test, which applies to gold caddies, considers the following factors:

  • Behavioral control — Does the club control or have the right to control how the caddy’s services are performed? If the club has such control, the caddy will likely be considered an employee. 
  • Financial control — Does the worker have a significant investment in the club and share in the profit or loss of the business?
  • The relationship between the parties — Are written agreements in place indicating the work status of the caddy and whether he or she is entitled to benefits?

Because caddies do not typically have a significant investment in a golf club, behavioral control weighs heavily in determining whether a caddy is an independent contractor or employee. Generally, an independent contractor relationship involves an arrangement in which caddies:

  • Are paid directly by members
  • Set their own rates
  • Receive no direct compensation 
  • Set their own schedule and workdays
  • Take direction from the member, not the club

If caddies are required to follow a schedule imposed by the club or if the club sets the caddy’s rates, he or she may be considered an employee. 

Moreover, the interaction between club members and caddies is an important factor in determining whether a worker is an independent contractor. First, club members should choose their own caddies, rather than the club assigning caddies to members. 

In addition, members should pay caddies directly and clubs should not compensate caddies or reimburse them for their expenses. Finally, caddies should have the right to decline providing services to a member. 

Additional factors in determining whether caddies are independent contractor include:

  • Training — Does the club provide specific instructions or training to caddies about how to perform their services? Providing training to caddies may indicate an employer-employee relationship.
  • Attire Does the club require caddies to wear uniforms or clothing with a club logo? While establishing a dress code is permissible, mandatory uniforms is a form of behavioral control typically for employees, not independent contractors.
  • Performance of club duties — Do caddies provide services to the club, such as cleaning? Services provided by caddies must be limited to club members.

Why This Matters?

While caddying on the Pro Golf Tour can be lucrative, most caddies never make it to that level and work at clubs that improperly classify them as independent contractors. The best way to protect your rights as a golf caddy is to speak with an experienced employment lawyer. The attorneys here at Lipsky Lowe have that very experience.

Posted in: Wage & Hour

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