Two recent court decisions are helping to quell the effects of the recently-passed Assembly Bill AB 5 (Gonzales, Chaptered September 18, 2019) in regard to California trucking companies, by determining that federal law preempts the most problematic part of both AB 5 and the 2018 California Supreme Court decision Dynamex West Operation v. California Superior Court. Both Dynamex and AB 5 worked to institute the new California worker classification test, the ABC Test, which provides for the following:
Nearly a year ago, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an opinion that most "gig economy" workers are properly classified as independent contractors.
Following the California Supreme Court decision in Dynamex Operations v. Superior Court, 4 Cal. 5th 903 (2018), which identified the "ABC Test" for worker classification for the purposes of California's wage and hour determinations under the IWC Wage Orders, and now with the passage and signing into law of Assembly Bill 5 (Gonzales) (2019 Cal ALS 296, 2018 Cal AB 5, 2019 Cal Stats. ch. 296.), which extended the Dynamex ABC Test to apply in workers' compensation insurance and EDD payroll tax determinations of status, we have been inundated with questions and issues arising out of these significant changes to California worker classification law. I have also noticed that California businesses and some experienced California practitioners are misinformed, or simply mistaken, about some elements of AB 5 and its potential effects on California businesses, independent contractors, and employees.
On October 2, 2019, the Governor of California approved Assembly Bill 170, which details the alternative test for workers to be classified as Independent Contractors within professions that are specifically excluded from the provisions of Assembly Bill 5, which was approved last month. Workers under AB 5 are presumed to be employees unless the hiring entity demonstrates that their workers pass the 3-part "ABC" test from Dynamex Operations W. Inc. v. Superior Court, (2018) 4 Cal.5th 903, as discussed previously here. Certain professions, however, such as licensed insurance agents, direct sales salespersons, and real estate licensees, are excluded from the ABC test, and instead worker classification in those professions will be determined by conditions set forth in S. G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, (1989) 48 Cal.3d 341, namely:
With the California Governor's approval of Assembly Bill No. 5 on September 18, 2019, worker classification law in the state has changed significantly by codifying the "ABC" test established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 4 Cal.5th 903 (2018). A person who provides labor or services for remuneration is now presumed to be an employee for purposes of claims for wages and benefits, unless the hiring entity can demonstrate that:
A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel presided over by Frederic Block recently issued its opinion in Vasquez, et al. v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc., finding that the "ABC test" for worker classification adopted last year in Dynamex Ops. W. Inc. v. Superior Court should apply retroactively to all wage-and-hour cases in California.
January 24, 2019 Update: On January 17, 2019, Assembly Bill AB 71 (Melendez) (seeking to statutorily supersede the narrow holding in Dynamex, by codifying the widely accepted factors in Borello) was referred to the Assembly Committee on Labor & Employment. Assembly Bill AB 5 (Gonzales) (seeking to codify Dynamex and clarify the decision's application in state law) is an active bill and pending referral to a committee.
In January, 2015, the California Supreme Court granted review of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court (Lee) (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 718.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced on June 7, 2017 that the Department will no longer follow the informal guidance issued as Administrator Interpretation Letters in 2015 and 2016 regarding joint employment and independent contractors [here], signaling an easing of the federal guidance on the use of contract labor. According to its press release, "The Department will continue to fully and fairly enforce all laws within its jurisdiction, including the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act." To read the full press release, click here.
Employers who wish to utilize independent contractors in their business model may often do so, however, adequate review of the employers' documents and practices is crucial to a successful business plan based on an independent contractor workforce. This week, Uber learned this lesson the hard way.