I often think of the worker classification case I was involved with as a new attorney at the Employment Development Department. One of my witnesses, an independent contractor truck driver, testified that he netted over $30,000 more per year than I was grossing as a state attorney. I realized at that moment that I was involved in restricting this gentleman from engaging in a lawful business which worked very well for him. The California legislature may soon be faced with a similar burden.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recently audited the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS's) SS-8 Program, which addresses worker classification issues. The standard options have been either employee or independent contractor. However, in recent years, classification has become more complicated with the emergence of the "gig economy," defined by its reliance on short-term contracts and freelance work.
The long-anticipated case Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, was issued on April 30, 2018. The case dealt with whether delivery drivers classified as independent contractors were misclassified as such under California Industrial Wage Commission Wage Order No. 9-2001.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently launched the Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program, which is designed to quickly resolve unintentional minimum wage violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) without penalty to qualified participants. Workers will benefit by swiftly receiving back wages that are owed, and employers can get into compliance without paying penalties. Employers must act quickly, however, since the pilot program is scheduled to end in about six months.
In January, 2015, the California Supreme Court granted review of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court (Lee) (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 718.
On the heels of the most recent development in the Uber worker classification dispute, the Internal Revenue Service has put together a free webinar about the differences between Employee and Independent Contractor worker classifications. Join the agency on May 12, 2016 at 2:00 pm EST (11:00 am PST) to learn about control factors, voluntary compliance, and IRS Form SS-8. Register here: https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/925/14635
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.
Entrepreneurs who participate in the "Sharing Economy" may be granted a new worker status as the traditional classifications of employee and independent contractor no longer fit this modern group of workers. Also known as the Gig Economy or the On-Demand Economy, workers in this sector have more independence from the control of their employer than a traditional employee, but they also do not maintain all of the characteristics of independent contractors who do not enjoy the protections of labor laws.
On September 1, 2015, U.S. District Judge, Edward Chen, authorized the certification of a class action in a lawsuit against Uber Technologies, Inc. for worker misclassification of Uber drivers. The drivers claimed they were misclassified as "independent contractors," and rather are properly classified as "employees." Thus, if the court eventually sides with Uber, the ride-share company would be subject to penalties, applicable lost wages or overtime wages, California and federal law regarding unfair competition, worker benefits, and employment taxes.
When I left the California EDD's Legal Office over two years ago, I predicted that the "rideshare" software application companies, Uber and Lyft, would soon come under scrutiny for worker classification issues. My prediction was correct. For the past few months, developments have occurred in two federal wage and hour lawsuits involving these two companies, and centering on issues of worker classification.