Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Not an Employee? You're not alone

7. March 2008 • Nancy Shore
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“Long ago, we brought you all this fire.
Do not imagine we are still chained to that rock.
Now we are everywhere, and independent.
But not alone.”

So goes the opening lines of the Not an Employee website.

According to the website Not an Employee was created for the following reasons:

“One day the we sat down and decided that we didn’t want to be “contractors” anymore. We’re not trying to get permanent jobs at the places we work. We collaborate with companies, we bring value to companies, we enjoy the money from companies, but we don’t want the shackles and cubicles of companies.”

There’s more, but I’ll let you read that yourself

Not an Employee LLC is based in Ann Arbor, MI and they want to hear from you.

So, are you Not an Employee, too?

  1. But the IRS and state governments want us to be employees because big companies are easier to censure than individuals

    Okay, I’m really confused.

    Corporations, at any rate, want you not to be employees, because then they don’t have to pay benefits. I’m not sure this state of affairs is necessarily good.

    I wish there were some actual names on the site, or some examples of the kind of situations where it’s desirable to be “not an employee.” Right now it’s quite sketchy.

       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 7 '08 - 04:33AM    #
  2. The first line of my post was a quote from the site.

       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 7 '08 - 04:34AM    #
  3. Hi AAIO! Not an Employee is me and Barbara & Bill Tozier and the inimitable Brian Kerr, too.

    We all work freelance and are trying to find ways we freelancers can work together, side by side perhaps, perhaps coming together for certain projects and then reconfiguring in different groups for other projects. And we’re all about working in such ways that we don’t get taken advantage of by corporations (ie. working as ‘contractors’ so that they can avoid paying benefits, but having all the other trappings of employment).

    If you read Barbara’s post on the blog (, it was indeed the state that sparked the phrase ‘Not An Employee,’ but what we’re really looking for is a banner of sorts to gather under. We aren’t looking for long-term employment, we don’t want to be ‘incubated’ into something bigger – we want to work with smart people and companies on interesting projects. We don’t want to work for anyone but ourselves.

    One of the concrete things we’re moving towards is a coworking space ( We currently do coworking on an kind of adhoc basis, Wednesday mornings at Primo Coffee. But we would like to create a more permanent space and are beginning discussions in that direction.

    Barb & I are heading out of town this week, but I’m sure if you have more questions, Bill and Brian can field them.

       —mitten (Laura Fisher)    Mar. 7 '08 - 05:40AM    #
  4. Okay, sorry I seemed to think you were some sketchy stealth corporate plot or something! I noticed you on there, but I thought you had just designed the site. Sounds interesting — I’ll keep an eye out for your group.

       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 7 '08 - 09:54AM    #
  5. Corporations, at any rate, want you not to be employees, because then they don’t have to pay benefits. I’m not sure this state of affairs is necessarily good.

    No, actually, big companies want — and often require — that you be a employee. Just not their own, permanent employee. What they want is for you to be W2 employee of a contracting company.

    This causes serious problems for single independent contractors, but forming a company from a small group of independents which employs the member/owners as W2 employees — that can work.

       —mw    Mar. 7 '08 - 07:40PM    #
  6. I’m a little confused about the difference between someone at Not an Employee and someone working at a consulting firm?

       —Anna    Mar. 8 '08 - 06:52AM    #
  7. I’m confused about their actual profession. Freelancing is an empolyment status, isn’t it? They are freelancing… what? Journalists? Writers? Computer software designers?

       —abc    Mar. 8 '08 - 08:23AM    #
  8. Being an employee means, in a nutshell, that the employer must pay its share of your Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you are not an employee, you must pay the full amount yourself, as well as having to pay estimated income taxes, rather than having them witheld. Also, most companies are required to provide Workers’ Compensation. Medical and other benefits (sick leave, vacation) are offered (or not) by the company. Being an employee affords various protections against unlawful dismissal, etc. A contract employee generally does not receive benefits, and therefore is a cheaper employee. There are many other more complicated ramifications, but, having worked as both, it’s better to be an employee.

       —Leah Gunn    Mar. 8 '08 - 05:48PM    #
  9. it’s better to be an employee


    it may be better for you to be an employee, and that’s your choice and a valid one for all the reasons you state. But many of us have elected to not be employees because of the freedom and flexibility it gives us. Yes, there are burdens you take on – funding your own health insurance, retirement, vacations, etc, but they are burdens many of us chosen to take on because we don’t want to work for someone else.

       —Tom Brandt    Mar. 8 '08 - 09:00PM    #
  10. I am not talking about your decision not to work for someone else. That is, of course, your choice. However, in making it, you do give up certain things. I would hope that these burdens, as you call them, can be made up by your earning a higher wage or making a better profit. I fully understand what you mean by working for yourself. Perhaps some day this country will have different rules, particularly pertaining to purchasing health care, that will even the playing field for those who wish to work for themselves.

    Believe me, I meant no criticism – I admire your independence and entrepeneurship.

       —Leah Gunn    Mar. 9 '08 - 12:48AM    #
  11. I admire the independence, too. I honestly never thought about working for myself (I really can’t, in my profession…unless I just gathered kids off the streets, put them in my living room and taught them, which would weird and illegal). In some ways, I wonder if working for yourself is, in some ways, more secure? I get super benefits and retirement, but no teaching job is ever safe in Michigan (IMHO). And I have absolutely no control over it. If Congress* or the state stops funding special education tomorrow, I’m screwed.
    Nice website and idea! *Special ed is federally and state funded, unlike regular education, which is generally just state funded.

       —TeacherPatti    Mar. 9 '08 - 04:42AM    #
  12. Michigan is an ‘at-will’ state, which means that you can be let go from a job without explanation with no liability to the employer, provided that there was not a contract which outlined a definite employment term. There need be NO documentation of poor performance, and there can actually be documentation of good performance; if an employer’s son-in-law needs work, or if he just wants a change of scenery, you can be asked to leave at any time with no consequences. How many Michigan employees do you think have written contracts with their employers that define the duration of their employment? I think that number is very low as many employees don’t know this and any employer who does would be reluctant to agree to hire someone for a set time period when they can easily meet any need with an employee willing (?) to work at-will.

    So I guess what I am saying is while you can say that “Being an employee affords various protections against unlawful dismissal, etc.” I cannot agree that there is really any protection there at all.

       —abc    Mar. 9 '08 - 07:54PM    #
  13. I am not an expert in this area, but I don’t think employees are as completely unprotected as abc says. There are various anti-discrimination laws which afford employees protection against racial, sexual and age discrimination. At large companies, getting rid of incompetent is very difficult, because everything has to be documented at great length to stand up to EEOC scrutiny. I worked at Ford and Chrysler some time ago and had direct experience with this.

       —Tom Brandt    Mar. 9 '08 - 08:34PM    #
  14. Yep, Tom & abc are both right. When I was doing legal aid law on a legal aid hotline, I was constantly telling clients this little ditty: “You can be fired for any reason or not reason, including the fact that your boss just wakes up in a bad mood.” BUT, if you get fired because of your race, gender, disability, you may have some protection. However, proving this is very difficult in most cases (I am not sure about large companies…the legal aid clients generally worked for small companies). Also, getting any sort of relief is a long time coming, especially if you are up against a big company that can afford to keep appealing and delaying judgment.
    Having a contract or a union does provide protection, but as abc says, contracts are uncommon. (Teachers usually do have contracts, but they don’t really protect us from layoffs. A few years ago, teachers will 8+ years of seniority were getting laid off. It really depends on your subject area and certification.)

       —TeacherPatti    Mar. 9 '08 - 10:58PM    #