independent contractor

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 Appellate Court Rejects ABC Test for Non-Wage-Order Claims

Some positive news for those employers that retain independent contractors. On October 22, 2018, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, held that the Dynamex “ABC” test (which we previously discussed here) to determine whether an independent contractor is an employee, only applies to wage order claims. But the case is a mixed bag and is a reminder that post-Dynamex, hiring parties bear a heavier burden to overcome the presumption that all workers are employees.

The case is Jesus Cuitlahuac Garcia v. Border Transportation Group, LLC, et al., involving plaintiff Jesus Garcia (“Garcia”), a taxi driver, who brought a wage and hour lawsuit against Border Transportation Group (“BTG”), with whom he drove taxi for several years. The trial court granted summary judgment for BTG, applying the decades-old multifactor S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, 48 Cal. 3d 341 (1989) test and finding Garcia was an independent contractor, not an employee entitled to wage order protection. The trial court’s reasoning included that Garcia controlled the means and manner of his work and “could and did market his business in his own name.”

Garcia appealed, during which time the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex, adopting the “ABC” test to determine whether a worker is an employee. Under this test, a hired individual is presumed an employee and the burden lays entirely on the hiring party to rebut that presumption by showing:

  • that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
  • that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business;
  • that 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.

Turning first to Garcia’s wage order claims, the court focused on the “C” prong and found that BTG failed to carry its burden to show Garcia actually “provided services for other entities ‘independently’ of his relationship with BTG.” The court rejected BTGs reliance on Sebago v. Bos. Cab Dispatch, Inc., which focused the inquiry on whether the worker is permitted to establish an independent business operation. The court noted that Dynamex requires an “existing, not potential showing of independent business operation.” The court reversed summary judgment on the wage order claims.

But in positive news for hiring parties, turning next to Garcia’s non-wage-order claims, the court held the ABC test did not apply, and upheld summary adjudication as to those claims.[1] The court explained that the Supreme Court did not reject the more flexible, multifactor Borello test in all instances, and that Borello applies when a cause of action is predicated solely on the Labor Code, while the ABC test is properly limited to wage-order claims. The court reasoned that the Supreme Court “recognized that different standards could apply to different statutory claims…” and emphasized that “primacy of statutory purpose” should resolve “the employee or independent contractor question.” The court found “no reason to apply the ABC test categorically to every working relationship, particularly when Borello…remains the standard for worker’s compensation.” And because the parties did not identify a “a basis to apply Dynamex to [the] non-wage-order claims,” the court concluded that Borello “furnished the proper standard as to those claims” without analyzing their primary statutory purposes.

Orrick will continue to track interpretations of the Dynamex case as they are published. For the latest employment law updates, subscribe to the Orrick Employment Law and Litigation Blog.

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[1] Garcia’s non-wage-order claims included wrongful termination in violation of public policy, failure to pay overtime, and waiting time penalties.

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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Are Franchisees Employees? California Court Says No

In October 2017, four franchisees filed a federal complaint against the global convenience store chain, 7-Eleven, seeking to represent a purported class of over 1,000 similarly situated 7-Eleven franchisees in California. The franchisees alleged 7-Eleven’s corporate entity violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, California Labor Code, California Code of Regulations, and California Business and Professions Code. The central issue in the case was whether 7-Eleven misclassified franchisees as independent contractors instead of employees. READ MORE

Some Control Is Just Fine: Ninth Circuit Upholds Independent Contractor Status in Jones v. Royal Admin. Servs.

Just the other week, in Jones v. Royal Admin. Servs., the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed the federal common law standard for distinguishing agents from independent contractors and upheld the independent contractor status of telemarketers providing direct sales services for a company, Royal Administration Services, Inc. (“Royal”).

At issue were telemarketers employed by All American Auto Protection, Inc. (“AAAP”), one of about twenty marketing vendors used by Royal to sell vehicle service contracts.  Several recipients of these telemarketing calls filed suit, first against AAAP and then against Royal, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  The telemarketing call recipients alleged that Royal was vicariously liable because the AAAP telemarketers were Royal’s agents.  Royal filed for summary judgment, asserting that the AAAP telemarketers were not its agents, but rather independent contractors.  The district court granted summary judgment for Royal. READ MORE

One Step Closer to Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) continues its regulatory dash to fulfill the President’s domestic agenda.  The agency issued proposed rules, that seek to make President Obama’s Executive Order 13706, Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors signed on September 7, 2015, into a reality.  The DOL solicits any comments on the proposed rules on or before March 28, 2016.  Once effective, employees of certain federal contractors would be entitled to paid leave akin to the leave now in place in 4 states, the District of Columbia, and 27 other localities that are entitled to paid sick leave.

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Extra! Extra! Read All About It: California Supreme Court Affirms Reversal of Class Certification Denial for Class of Newspaper Carriers

The California Supreme Court in Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc. recently affirmed and remanded the reversal of a denial of class certification in an independent contractor misclassification case, emphasizing the standard terms of the contractual agreements between the parties. The plaintiffs were newspaper carriers for the defendant newspaper publisher who were contracted pursuant to two preprinted standard form contracts. Based on the theory that they were misclassified as independent contractors, plaintiffs alleged overtime, meal and rest break violations, and sought reimbursement for expenses and penalties. READ MORE