More Americans are independent contractors than ever before. That means they’re not protected by U.S. labor laws that cover employees. For workers in Michigan, the difference may mean protection from discrimination in the workplace or no protection at all.

Independent contractors say that’s not fair. They say that protections for employees should extend to contractors. Workers, lawmakers and employers are debating what’s fair and how far workplace discrimination laws should go when it comes to contracted workers.

There are a few ways for lawmakers to address the problem. First, they could expand the definition of an employee to include contractors. Legal standards examine the amount of control that the employer has over the person’s work. They look at how much independent authority the person exercises. Lawmakers could modify the laws in order to classify independent contractors as employees.

Alternatively, lawmakers could change the laws in order to give contractors protections against discrimination. They would create new laws that protect contractors from discrimination on the basis of the same protected classes that are afforded to employees like gender, religion and national origin.

Either way, contractors say that relief can’t come soon enough. They say that current laws are outdated with the numbers of workers who don’t fall under the employee classification. Workers say that being able to work free from discrimination is a human right. Anti-discrimination laws apply at both a federal and state level. Government officials have the authority to investigate allegations of discrimination. Individual victims may also bring legal action in order to claim damages and hold wrongdoers accountable for discriminatory actions.

An employment law attorney can help clients determine whether they fall under an independent contractor or employee classification. Legal counsel can also assist with reporting discrimination if appropriate.