• Kimberly Julian

Hired Employee versus Independent Contractor: Which One Works for You in the Telecom Industry?

What an exciting industry to be a part of! An honorary position, an honorary title of “Tower Dog”.

Tower Dogs = travel, adventure, thrill-seeking, courageous, bold and in high demand. Officially known as “cell tower technicians”, their duties include installation, maintenance and repair of cell towers – the strength of America, one of the most relied upon services in today’s times. That demand comes with two employment options: employee or independent contractor (1099 contractor).

Of the two employment options, employee or independent contractor, which one is right for you?

The most basic definition: as an employee you work for someone else, as an independent contractor you work for yourself. Let’s look at the difference a bit further:

· Employee

o one employer, long-term, steady employment

o receive a regular monthly wage

o payroll taxes are the responsibility of your employer

o worker compensation benefit paid (federal and possible state plan)

o other benefit potential

o workload is directed, it’s scheduled: hours, travel, etc and paid for

o receives all the necessary tools, equipment and supplies necessary to do the job

o specialized training is provided

o may be released from employment, at-will employment

· Independent Contractor

o self-employed, potential for multiple “contracts”, defined period of time

o written contract terms define wage

o responsible for your own taxes

o benefits must be purchased separately (life insurance, worker’s comp, etc)

o directs own schedule: hours, travel, etc

o purchase and maintain all necessary tools, equipment and supplies necessary to do each job

o responsible for maintaining the required specialized training

o own boss (and the legal responsibilities and risks that come with it).

So, you know which one you’re interested in… some of it depends on where you are in life, what stage of living, what you desire in employment.

An OSHA investigation documents equipment from a fatal tower accident om OSHA investigation file).

But let’s take it a step further.

What’s the right choice for your family?

Cell Tower Technicians have one of the top most dangerous jobs in the Nation. With the industry continuing to grow, the last available survey put the number of technicians at 29,000 (The Wireless Estimator, 2015). The averaged death rate over the past ten years was 7.6 people a year (The Wireless Estimator, 2019) with falling off the tower not being the only deadly concern; there’s the added obstacles of physically demanding work, driving while tired, and falling objects. Nationwide, accidents involving workers struck by falling objects increased by 17 percent last year.

With the injury and fatality rates being what they are, what happens if the unthinkable happens? It’s a work-related death, right? What does that mean for your family, those that are left behind?

An employment status initiates the outcome of what’s available to a person; an employee is typically eligible for more benefits under various federal and state laws than an independent contractor.

As an independent contractor, in the event of a debilitating injury or untimely death, your family does not receive any beneficiary payment from active contracts (unfulfilled contractual obligations may extend to your family), nor do they receive worker compensation benefits from the state plans. What they receive is entirely up to you and what you have set up. Are you prepared? Is the life insurance policy enough? Have you considered all the expenses, thought through all the details and the what-ifs?

Employees, on the other hand, are covered by their employers’ insurance policies and in some cases, a state insurance plan. A workers’ compensation death benefit from a work-related injury or death would pay funeral expenses and provide supplemental financial support to the family. In addition to the employer’s insurance, states that have state plans pay out worker compensation survivor benefits. An option that should be considered when looking for employment and planning for the future security of your family.

You can check into your state’s workers’ compensation plan by contacting the state’s department of industrial relations or state labor department if applicable.

The Hubble Foundation was created to assist where it’s needed most: financial assistance to those cell tower technicians that were injured on the job; financial assistance for the family of the deceased as well as scholarships for their kids.

Please feel free to contact us for more information on donating to the case or for receiving a blessing provided by others.



*Kimberly is a regular contributor and volunteer to Hubble Foundation. If you would Kimberly to write about specific topics for Hubble Foundation's Blog, please let us know!

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