Defining the Workforce: The Lambro v. United States Case and the Intricacies of Employee Classification

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The case “Lambro v. United States” involves Jason Lambro, who worked as a studio technician for Voice of America (VOA), a division of the United States Agency for Global Media. Lambro worked under a series of purchase order agreements and later through his own company, Wayne Industries LLC. These agreements stated that no employer-employee relationship existed between Lambro and VOA. However, Lambro contended that VOA significantly controlled his work, leading him to argue that he was misclassified as an independent contractor and should have been treated as an employee entitled to benefits under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).


Key Points of the Case:

  1. Misclassification Claim: Lambro argued that despite being labeled an independent contractor, the control VOA exercised over his work made him an employee under the FLSA.
  2. Definition of Federal Employee: The central issue was whether Lambro, not formally a federal employee, could be considered an employee under the FLSA for benefits like overtime pay.
  3. Court’s Decision: The Federal Circuit held that the FLSA’s own definitions and standards should be used to determine if Lambro was a federal employee for FLSA purposes. The court vacated the dismissal of Lambro’s claims and remanded the case for further proceedings.


Lessons for Employers:

  1. Understand Employee Classification: Proper classification of workers as either employees or independent contractors is crucial. Misclassification can lead to legal disputes and financial liabilities.
  2. Control Matters: The degree of control an employer has over a worker’s tasks and schedule is a key factor in determining employment status. Even if a contract states no employment relationship exists, the actual work conditions matter.
  3. Be Aware of Employment Laws: Employers must be aware of relevant employment laws, like the FLSA, and how they apply to different types of workers.
  4. Document Work Arrangements: Clearly document work arrangements, including the nature of the work, payment terms, and the extent of control over the work.
  5. Consult Legal Experts: It’s wise to consult legal or HR experts when classifying workers to ensure compliance with labor laws.


In summary, “Lambro v. United States” highlights the complexity of worker classification and the importance of understanding and applying employment laws correctly to avoid misclassification and its legal consequences.

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