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San Jose worker classification attorneyThe United States economy has changed significantly over the past decade. More and more workers are participating in what is known as the “gig economy” or “sharing economy,” allowing them to set their own schedules while completing tasks such as transporting passengers or making deliveries. While these types of arrangements have benefited many workers and those who use their services, questions have been raised about worker classification and whether certain types of gig workers should be considered independent contractors or employees. While several states, including California, have implemented laws to address this issue, the federal government has also weighed in on the topic. A recent rule change from the Department of Labor created a test that should be used to determine whether a worker is self-employed or is dependent on an employer.

The Department of Labor’s “Economic Reality” Test

Employees have a number of protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), including the right to receive a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay when working more than 40 hours a week, as well as benefits such as unemployment insurance, healthcare, retirement plans, sick leave, and family medical leave. Independent contractors are not protected by the FLSA, and rather than having payroll taxes withheld from their pay, they are usually required to pay self-employment taxes. 

To ensure that workers are classified correctly, the Department of Labor has created a new rule that specifies that an “economic reality” test should be used to determine whether a worker is dependent on an employer. Under this rule, there are two core factors that are considered:

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San Jose, CA employee and independent contractor attorney

The employment laws in California have gone through a number of major changes over the past year. Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which went into effect on January 1, 2020, put in place new rules for worker classification, specifying when a person may be considered an employee or an independent contractor. However, there has been some confusion about whether certain workers are exempt from these rules. A new bill, AB2257, was approved by California Governor Gavin Newsom on September 4, 2020, superseding, amending, and adding further complexity to the worker classification issue.

Exemptions Under AB2257

AB5 specified, with certain exceptions, that a three-part test, known as the “ABC test,” should be used to determine whether a worker should be classified as an employee or as an independent contractor. This test states that for a person to be considered an independent contractor, he or she must 1) be free from the control and direction of the company that hired him or her when performing his or her duties, 2) perform work that is not in the usual course of the hiring company’s business, and 3) regularly be engaged in a trade or occupation that has been established independently.

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San Jose, CA business law attorney

Over the past few years, California’s employment laws have been in flux due to court decisions and legislation that have affected how workers are classified. Specifically, Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) has required some companies to classify their workers as employees rather than independent contractors, which will allow workers to receive a minimum wage and benefits. However, companies such as Uber and Lyft have fought against these requirements, and voters will be able to decide whether to implement a measure in the upcoming election to determine whether certain types of workers will receive an exemption from the requirements put in place by AB5.

NOTE: AB5 has very recently been renumbered as AB2257 and clarifies current definitions of employee versus independent contractor and enumerates a number of exemptions for certain industries. Prop 22 was placed on the ballot prior to this change in numbering and therefore refers to the old AB5. 

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San Jose, CA business law attorney for worker classificationIn 2018, the California Supreme Court made a decision that would radically change how workers are classified in California. In the groundbreaking decision regarding Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, a new “ABC test” for determining worker classification was announced. According to the test, workers are presumed to be employees unless the hiring agency can establish that the worker is free from the agency’s direct control, he or she performs work that is outside the hiring agency’s normal business, and the worker is involved in an independently established job or business of the same nature as the work he or she performs for the hiring entity. 

California Assembly Bill 5 codified these criteria into law. Now, the California legislature is considering a number of bills that are intended to modify what many people consider to be the overly strict worker classification rules set forth in AB 5. One such amendment is Senate Bill 1039, or “The Independent Worker Rights Act of 2020.”

Controversy Over AB 5 Restrictions

Although proponents of AB 5 have stated that the law is intended to defend workers and guarantee wage protection, many people believe that the worker classification criteria set forth by the bill will do more harm than good – to both employers and workers. The bill has received harsh criticism from “gig economy” companies such as Uber, Lyft, and food delivery businesses. The trucking industry has also expressed serious concern as to the law’s constitutionality as it applies to truck drivers. Trucking companies have received a temporary exemption from AB 5 worker classification rules, but it is still unknown exactly how AB 5 will apply to trucking companies and other businesses that typically hire independent contractors.

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San Jose employment tax lawyer for independent contractorsBy now, you have probably already heard about the massive changes being instituted by California Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5). The legislation codifies California Supreme Court case Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court into law. In this landmark case, the court held that the majority of California workers should be classified as employees and therefore are entitled to receive all of the benefits and protections associated with employee classification. Employers must classify all workers as employees unless the worker meets certain criteria. A number of industries have criticized the new bill, stating that the strict rules will damage businesses as well as current independent contractors’ ability to make a living. California Assembly Bill 1925, which is currently being considered by the state legislature, includes a modification of the current California Labor Code that may provide relief from the strict regulations to certain businesses.

Overview of California AB 5

In order for California workers to be classified as independent contractors, they must meet the three elements listed in the following “ABC Test:”

  • (A) The worker performs services without the hiring agency’s direct control or instruction.
  • (B)  The worker accomplishes tasks that are not within the hiring agency’s usual course of business.
  • (C) The worker is involved in a private business or form of self-employment of the same type as that involved in the work performed for the hiring agency.

Several special interest groups have filed lawsuits against AB 5, saying that these regulations are too strict and that the law is unconstitutional. The trucking industry has been especially vocal in expressing concerns about how the law will affect truck drivers currently classified as independent contractors. Drivers cannot set their own schedule if they are forced to be classified as independent contractors, and trucking groups have argued that this violates the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez has temporarily exempted trucking companies from AB 5 restrictions.  

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