A California Supreme Court decision issued in late April drastically changed the requirements to classify workers as independent contractors for the purposes of California wage and hour laws. In Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court, the Court overruled the previous multi-factor test for classifying workers as independent contractors and replaced it with a new test. Where the… Read More
A California Supreme Court decision issued in late April drastically changed the requirements to classify workers as independent contractors for the purposes of California wage and hour laws. In Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court, the Court overruled the previous multi-factor test for classifying workers as independent contractors and replaced it with a new test. Where the previous test was a balancing of factors that provided for much more uncertainty and, arguably, more manipulation of the facts, the new Dynamex test starts with the presumption that all workers are employees and then requires an employer to prove that all of the following are true before a worker can be identified as an independent contractor:
- The worker is free from the control and direction of the company in connection with performing the work, both in reality and under the terms of the relevant contract;
- The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the company’s business; AND
- The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work being performed for the company.
The first and third prongs of the new standard are similar to the previous test, which focused on the amount of control the employer exerted over the worker and also whether the worker had other sources of income besides through the employer.
The second prong, however, is the significant change – if the worker is performing work that is inside “the usual course of the company’s business,” then the person must be classified as an employee. Therefore, even if a worker is hired to take on overflow work or pick up intermittent jobs, if this work is in the scope of the company’s main business activities then the worker must be classified as an employee.
The decision will very likely be a blow to the growing “gig economy,” but the implications for small businesses and start-ups that have limited resources and may need more intermittent services is staggering. This new checklist test is much more stringent, and as a result the majority of workers in California should now likely be classified as employees (there have been some broad generalizations that plumbers and electricians will be the only remaining independent contractors…). As employees, the workers are entitled to overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, and at least minimum wage, and employers need to obtain workers compensation insurance for them and comply with other logistical requirements related to reporting and payment.
While workers providing ancillary services to businesses, such as lawyers and accountants (though it depends on the business, as these workers still provide work inside the course of some companies’ business), are likely still contractors under the new Dynamex standard, all employers need to honestly, and immediately, assess their workforce and determine if any contractors need to be reclassified. The new test went into effect as soon as the decision was issued in late April, so misclassified contractors need to be reclassified as employees as soon as possible. Misclassification lawsuits can result in enormous judgments, made up of backpay and penalties, that will very likely outweigh the “savings” of classifying a worker as a contractor.
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