gig economy

The Year of Dynamex: Navigating California’s Assembly Bill 5

On September 18, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 5 (A.B. 5). A.B. 5 relates to whether workers are employees or independent contractors. With this bill the California Legislature codified the ABC test set forth by the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 4 Cal. 5th 903 (2018) and expanded its applicability. It expands the ABC test for independent contractor vs. employee classification to the California Labor Code and the California Unemployment Insurance Code.

A.B. 5 adds section 2750.3 and amends section 3351 to the California Labor Code and amends sections 605.5 and 621 to the California Unemployment Insurance Code.

Dynamex and the ABC test

For the last 30 years, California courts have addressed independent contractor v. employee classification using the test set forth in S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, 48 Cal. 3d 341 (1989). Under the Borello test, determining whether a worker was an employee or an independent contractor hinged on a number of factors and primarily focused on the alleged employer’s control over the manner and means by which the work is performed. On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex, announcing a significant departure from the Borello test. The Dynamex decision adopted the so-called 3-part “ABC” test for determining whether an individual is considered an independent contractor or an employee under the wage orders, which govern many aspects of wages and working conditions in covered industries. Under the new 3-part ABC test, a worker is properly considered an independent contractor to whom a wage order does not apply only where the hirer establishes:

  1. The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work;
  2. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business.

For more background information on the Dynamex decision, please see our May 9, 2018 blog post.

A.B. 5

A.B. 5 codifies and expands the Dynamex 3-part ABC test, making it apply not only to claims arising out of the wage orders, but also apply to the California Labor Code and Unemployment Insurance Code. The new law also includes a provision that empowers the California Attorney General and city attorneys of cities with populations greater than 750,000 to seek injunctive relief to prevent the continued misclassification of employees as independent contractors. See California Labor Code section 2750.3(j).

In passing the bill, the legislature stated that it intended “to ensure workers who are currently exploited by being misclassified as independent contractors instead of recognized as employees have the basic rights and protections they deserve under the law, including a minimum wage, workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job, unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and paid family leave.” The legislature further stated that “by codifying the California Supreme Court’s landmark, unanimous Dynamex decision, this act restores these important protections to potentially several million workers who have been denied these basic workplace rights that all employees are entitled to under the law.”

A.B. 5 includes carveout exemptions from the ABC test for various occupations and business relationships (such as lawyers, veterinarians, commercial fishermen, investment advisors, licensed private investigators and specified professional services providers) if the hiring entity can prove the specific requirements for exemption are met. See Cal. Lab. Code section 2750.3 (b)-(h). If the exemption applies, the Borello test governs the worker classification issue.

The application of the ABC test to the California Labor Code and Unemployment Insurance Code takes effect on January 1, 2020, with the applicability to workers’ compensation going into effect on July 1, 2020.

Next Steps

Under A.B. 5, the number of individuals who are considered employees in California for purposes of the wage orders, California Labor Code, and Unemployment Insurance Code will almost certainly increase. Now is the time to review your company’s practices related to independent contractors and talk to counsel for advice. We will continue to monitor any developments and are here to help.

Ninth Circuit Withdraws Vasquez, Punts to California Supreme Court on Dynamex Retroactivity

On July 22, 2019, the Ninth Circuit withdrew its recent decision in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc., and ordered that it would certify to the California Supreme Court the question of whether the worker classification test articulated in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court applies retroactively. READ MORE

New EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Will Give Gig Workers More Rights

On June 13, 2019, the Council of the European Union (EU) adopted the European Parliaments proposal for a Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive – a direct follow-up to the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The new law introduces new minimum rights, as well as new rules on the information to be provided to workers about their working conditions. READ MORE

AB 5 and AB 71: CA Legislature Dukes It Out Over Dynamex and Borello

The battle between Dynamex and Borello continues. Two competing bills – Assembly Bill 5 (“AB 5”) and Assembly Bill 71 (“AB 71”) – each seek to codify the respective worker classification tests. On May 29, 2019, the California State Assembly overwhelmingly passed AB 5, a bill seeking to codify Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, which adopted the three-factor “ABC” test to determine a worker’s classification for wage order claims. Now the bill is headed to the state Senate. Meanwhile, AB 71, a bill seeking to codify S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Dept. of Industrial Relations, has thus far not enjoyed the same success. READ MORE

A Gig Can be a Gig: US DOL Opinion Letter Breathes New Life into the Gig Economy Independent Contractor Model

On April 29, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued an opinion letter finding that “on-demand” service providers working for a virtual marketplace company are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The opinion letter comes almost two years after the DOL withdrew informal guidance on independent contractors issued under the Obama administration, in which the DOL concluded that “most workers are employees under the FLSA.” The new opinion letter signals an approach more friendly to “gig economy” virtual marketplace companies (or “VMCs”), online and/or smartphone-based referral services that connect consumers with service providers providing a wide variety of services, such as transportation, delivery, shopping, moving, cleaning, plumbing, painting, and household services. READ MORE

Ninth Circuit “Cleans House” in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Decision by Holding ABC Test Applies Retroactively and Opining on Its Effect on Franchisors

On May 2, 2019, the Ninth Circuit in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising Int’l, Inc. held that the California Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court applied retroactively. Dynamex adopted the “ABC” test for independent contractor classification for claims arising under California’s Wage Orders. For those claims, an employer must show that all three prongs of the ABC test are met to justify independent contractor status. For information on Dynamex’s adoption of the ABC test, read our prior coverage here. READ MORE

The Challenges Ahead for GIG Economy Platforms in Europe Increase as the Labor Courts’ Scrutiny Intensifies

Further to the reclassification of the service agreement between an independent deliveryman and Deliveroo, ordered by a Spanish lower Court, French jurisdictions recently shifted position, considering that several independent workers should be deemed employees of the platform that they were working for. READ MORE

California Court Rejects “ABC” Test For Joint Employers

As has been widely reported, last month the California Supreme Court issued a decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles that rejected the long-standing, multi-factor test to determine whether a worker is an employee. The Dynamex decision established a three-factor “ABC” test that, on its face, places the entire burden of showing that a worker is not an employee squarely upon the hiring party. The ABC test asks whether:

  1. The worker is free from the direction and control of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
  2. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

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Good Work If You Can Get It: UK Government’s Response to Modern Working Proposals

Some seven months after the publication of Matthew Taylor’s independent ‘Review of Modern Working Practices’, the UK Government has finally issued its response to the Taylor proposals: the “Good Work” response (the “Response”). Big news, you might think – but it’s fair to say that it promises more than it delivers.

Some of the headlines in the UK press would have you believe that there has been a large scale reform on UK employment rights and this was certainly the expectation– but this just isn’t the case, at least for now. The Government has stated that it is in agreement with 52 of the 53 recommendations from Matthew Taylor’s commissioned review, which considered how employment practices need to change in order to keep pace with modern business models (the “Taylor Review”), and it has acknowledged that, “all work should be fair and decent, with scope for development and fulfilment” – but the major points in the Response are all subject to further consultation and we are far from having concrete plans in place to effect change. READ MORE

California Bill Seeks to Enable Independent Contractors in the “Gig Economy” to Organize, Bargain, and Strike

In what could prove a harbinger of worker classification developments to come, Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego) has proposed AB 1727, “The California 1099 Self-Organizing Act.” The bill, which is at the earliest stages of the legislative process, would provide an avenue for certain workers classified as independent contractors to engage in “group activities” including organizing, bargaining, and striking. At bottom, the legislation would give certain independent contractors the ability to collectively confront those with whom they contract.

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