Joint Employment

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

Here We Go Again: Browning-Ferris Revisited

As a result of recent activity at the D.C. Circuit and the National Labor Relations Board (the “NLRB”), the joint employer standard is in a state of flux. On April 6, 2018, the D.C. Circuit decided that it will review the NLRB’s ruling in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. (“Browning-Ferris”), a controversial decision concluding that a company and its contractor could be found to be joint employers even if the company did not exert overt control over workers’ terms and conditions of employment. In December 2017, the D.C. Circuit remanded the case in light of the NLRB’s decision in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, Ltd. and Brandt Construction Co. (“Hy-Brand”), which overruled the broad Browning-Ferris standard for joint employment and returned to a more employer-friendly standard. But, the NLRB recently vacated its Hy-Brand decision based on a conflict regarding one of its Members. Now, the D.C. Circuit likely will weigh in on the appropriate scope of the joint employer standard. READ MORE

Joint Responsibility: Companies Should Keep an Eye on the Shifting Legal Landscape of Joint Employment

As Congress considers a bill to change the definition of joint employment under two federal statutes, the Supreme Court is poised to decide whether to take up the issue under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Labor has withdrawn administrative guidance issued by the prior administration, and several states have enacted or considered joint employment legislation.  In this rapidly evolving legal landscape, companies may want to keep a close eye on a doctrine that can lead to unexpected legal exposure. READ MORE

From Swimsuits to Grass Fed Beef: A New Direction for Labor?

The United States Senate is slated to consider Andrew (Andy) Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, as the next Secretary of Labor (“DOL”). Although his confirmation hearing which was set for February 7, 2017 has been delayed reportedly to give Mr. Puzder additional time to complete government ethics disclosures, Mr. Puzder has stated that he is fully committed to becoming Secretary of Labor and says that he is “looking forward to [his] hearing.”[1]

CKE Restaurants operates “fast food” restaurants known as Carl’s Jr. west of the Rockies and Hardee’s in the east. The restaurants, perhaps better-known for their commercials featuring women models in skimpy swimsuits, began a new advertising campaign last fall focusing on its employees talking about the quality of the food offerings — burgers made with grass fed beef, hand-breaded chicken tenders, hand-scooped ice cream, and scratch made biscuits.  If confirmed, Mr. Puzder in all likelihood, would also steer the DOL in a new direction with a decidedly more business-friendly approach than his predecessor, Tom Perez.  We consider what would a Puzder DOL would likely focus on. READ MORE

DOL and EEOC to Make 2016 A Challenging Year for Employers

Members of the Fair Labor Standards Legislation Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law recently met.  The meeting includes employer and employee advocates, as well as government officials.  The meeting often highlights not only the present status of regulations, policy and pending litigation but also provides a window into coming trends that may be important for employers.  We highlight a few takeaways.

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DOL Continues to Push Its Agenda with New Guidance on Joint Employment

Solicitor of Labor Patricia Smith likes to quip that the Department is “working overtime on overtime.”  DOL took a break from the much-anticipated overtime regulations and issued new guidance yesterday on the question of who qualifies as a “joint employer” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).  The guidance (Administrator’s Interpretation (AI) No. 2016-1) issued by Wage and Hour Division (WHD) Administrator Dr. David Weil, sets forth a broad (and sometimes ambiguous) reading of statutory provisions, regulations, and case law to address joint employment issues under the two statutes.  The guidance was not unexpected as some advocates have been asking for the DOL’s position on joint employment since the NLRB’s expansion of joint employment in Browning-Ferris, 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015).  Notably, the level of coordination between DOL and the NLRB on joint employment issues has been the subject of Congressional oversight and the oversight committee now claims that DOL provided suspect responses to members of Congress regarding interactions between the agencies on the issue

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