The past few months have included many silver linings — more family time, a Lake Michigan vacation, and professional cornhole on TV. I’ve also learned new things — governors have more power than I thought, remote work is more doable than many of us thought, and there’s such a thing as professional cornhole.
Now the Department of Labor wants us to learn something new too — about independent contractor status. (Too many long dashes so far? I’m flagging myself for excessive use.)
Last week the DOL published a notice that it intends to fast-track a new regulation covering the test for independent contractor vs employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
What would that test look like? The DOL gave no hints, but here is my educated guess.
The test for independent contractor status under the FLSA is an Economic Realities Test. That is a court-created test, it’s well-established, and it’s not likely to change. If the DOL did try to change it, I don’t think the courts would follow the new regulation anyway. So the DOL is going to have to work more around the edges.
I expect the regulation to define more precisely the factors to be taken into account under the Economic Realities Test. Right now, different courts use different versions of it. Some uniformity would be helpful.
I also expect some examples to help illustrate how the factors should be applied. Look for sample fact patterns that seem like close calls but perhaps would be deemed supportive of independent contractor status under a new DOL interpretation.
We can expect the DOL will gently place its fingers on the scales, making it a bit easier to maintain independent contractor status under the FLSA. Don’t expect a full rewrite of the test.
The DOL will want to implement the new rule quickly, in case a new administration takes over in January. Look for a proposed regulation shortly, a quick public comment period, and a new regulation on the books late this year.
Hopefully by the time we see a final rule, we can watch real sports on TV and demote cornhole to livestream only. That way both people who care could still watch.
© 2020 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.
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