Misclassification continues to deny workers’ rightful wages; hurt businesses, economy
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Oct. 13 to help employers and workers determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The proposed rule would provide guidance on classifying workers and seeks to combat employee misclassification. Misclassification is a serious issue that denies workers’ rights and protections under federal labor standards, promotes wage theft, allows certain employers to gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding businesses, and hurts the economy at-large.
The NPRM proposes a framework more consistent with longstanding judicial precedent on which employers have relied to classify workers as employees or independent contractors under the FLSA. The department believes the new rule would preserve essential worker rights and provide consistency for regulated entities.
“While independent contractors have an important role in our economy, we have seen in many cases that employers misclassify their employees as independent contractors, particularly among our nation’s most vulnerable workers,” said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Misclassification deprives workers of their federal labor protections, including their right to be paid their full, legally earned wages. The Department of Labor remains committed to addressing the issue of misclassification.”
Specifically, the proposed rule would do the following:
- Align the department’s approach with courts’ FLSA interpretation and the economic reality test.
- Restore the multifactor, totality-of-the-circumstances analysis to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the FLSA.
- Ensure that all factors are analyzed without assigning a predetermined weight to a particular factor or set of factors.
- Revert to the longstanding interpretation of the economic reality factors. These factors include the investment, control and opportunity for profit or loss factors. The integral factor, which considers whether the work is integral to the employer’s business, is also included.
- Assist with the proper classification of employees and independent contractors under the FLSA.
- Rescind the 2021 Independent Contractor Rule.
The department is responsible for ensuring that employers do not misclassify FLSA-covered workers as independent contractors and deprive them of their legal wage and hour protections. Misclassification denies basic worker protections such as minimum wage and overtime pay and affects a wide range of workers in the home care, janitorial services, trucking, delivery, construction, personal services, and hospitality and restaurant industries, among others.
Before publication of today’s proposed rulemaking, the department’s Wage and Hour Division considered feedback shared by stakeholders in forums during the summer of 2022 and will now solicit comments on the proposed rule from interested parties. The division encourages all stakeholders to participate in the regulatory process. Comments, which must be submitted from Oct. 13 to Nov. 28, 2022, should be submitted online or in writing to the Division of Regulations, Legislation and Interpretation, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-3502, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210.
The following is the new rule proposed by the Department of Labor.
PART 795—EMPLOYEE OR INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR CLASSIFICATION UNDER THE FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT.
795.100 Introductory statement.
795.105 Determining employee or independent contractor classification under the FLSA.
795.110Economic reality test to determine economic dependence.
Authority: 29 U.S.C. 201-219.
This part contains the Department of Labor’s (the Department) general interpretations for determining whether workers are employees or independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA or Act). See29 U.S.C. 201-19. These interpretations are intended to serve as a “practical guide to employers and employees” as to how the Department will seek to apply the Act. Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134, 138 (1944). The Administrator of the Department’s Wage and Hour Division will use these interpretations to guide the performance of their duties under the Act, unless and until the Administrator is otherwise directed by authoritative decisions of the courts or the Administrator concludes upon reexamination of an interpretation that it is incorrect. To the extent that prior administrative rulings, interpretations, practices, or enforcement policies relating to determining who is an employee or independent contractor under the Act are inconsistent or in conflict with the interpretations stated in this part, they are hereby rescinded. The interpretations stated in this part may be relied upon in accordance with section 10 of the Portal-to-Portal Act, 29 U.S.C. 251-262, notwithstanding that after any act or omission in the course of such reliance, the interpretation is modified or rescinded or is determined by judicial authority to be invalid or of no legal effect. 29 U.S.C. 259.
Determining employee or independent contractor classification under the FLSA.
(a) Relevance of independent contractor or employee status under the Act. The Act’s minimum wage, overtime pay, and recordkeeping obligations apply only to workers who are covered employees. Workers who are independent contractors are not covered by these protections. Labeling employees as “independent contractors” does not make these protections inapplicable. A determination of whether workers are employees or independent contractors under the Act focuses on the economic realities of the workers’ relationship with the employer and whether the workers are either economically dependent on the employer for work or in business for themselves.
(b) Economic dependence as the ultimate inquiry. An “employee” under the Act is an individual whom an employer suffers, permits, or otherwise employs to work. 29 U.S.C. 203(e)(1), (g). The Act’s definitions are meant to encompass as employees all workers who, as a matter of economic reality, are economically dependent on an employer for work. A worker is an independent contractor, as distinguished from an “employee” under the Act, if the worker is, as a matter of economic reality, in business for themself. Economic dependence does not focus on the amount of income earned, or whether the worker has other income streams.
Economic reality test to determine economic dependence.
(a) Economic reality test. (1) In order to determine economic dependence, multiple factors assessing the economic realities of the working relationship are used. These factors are tools or guides to conduct a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis. This means that the outcome of the analysis does not depend on isolated factors but rather upon the circumstances of the whole activity to answer the question of whether the worker is economically dependent on the employer for work or is in business for themself.
(2) The six factors described in paragraphs (b)(1) through (6) of this section should guide an assessment of the economic realities of the working relationship and the question of economic dependence. Consistent with a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis, no one factor or subset of factors is necessarily dispositive, and the weight to give each factor may depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular case. Moreover, these six factors are not exhaustive. As explained in paragraph (b)(7) of this section, additional factors may be considered.
(b) Economic reality factors —(1) Opportunity for profit or loss depending on managerial skill. This factor considers whether the worker exercises managerial skill that affects the worker’s economic success or failure in performing the work. The following facts, among others, can be relevant: whether the worker determines or can meaningfully negotiate the charge or pay for the work provided; whether the worker accepts or declines jobs or chooses the order and/or time in which the jobs are performed; whether the worker engages in marketing, advertising, or other efforts to expand their business or secure more work; and whether the worker makes decisions to hire others, purchase materials and equipment, and/or rent space. If a worker has no opportunity for a profit or loss, then this factor suggests that the worker is an employee. Some decisions by a worker that can affect the amount of pay that a worker receives, such as the decision to work more hours or take more jobs, generally do not reflect the exercise of managerial skill indicating independent contractor status under this factor.
(2) Investments by the worker and the employer. This factor considers whether any investments by a worker are capital or entrepreneurial in nature. Costs borne by a worker to perform their job ( e.g., tools and equipment to perform specific jobs and the workers’ labor) are not evidence of capital or entrepreneurial investment and indicate employee status. Investments that are capital or entrepreneurial in nature and thus indicate independent contractor status generally support an independent business and serve a business-like function, such as increasing the worker’s ability to do different types of or more work, reducing costs, or extending market reach. Additionally, the worker’s investments should be considered on a relative basis with the employer’s investments in its overall business. The worker’s investments need not be equal to the employer’s investments, but the worker’s investments should support an independent business or serve a business-like function for this factor to indicate independent contractor status.
(3) Degree of permanence of the work relationship. This factor weighs in favor of the worker being an employee when the work relationship is indefinite in duration or continuous, which is often the case in exclusive working relationships. This factor weighs in favor of the worker being an independent contractor when the work relationship is definite in duration, non-exclusive, project-based, or sporadic based on the worker being in business for themself and marketing their services or labor to multiple entities. This may include regularly occurring fixed periods of work, although the seasonal or temporary nature of work by itself would not necessarily indicate independent contractor classification. Where a lack of permanence is due to operational characteristics that are unique or intrinsic to particular businesses or industries and the workers they employ, rather than the workers’ own independent business initiative, this factor is not indicative of independent contractor status.
(4) Nature and degree of control. This factor considers the employer’s control, including reserved control, over the performance of the work and the economic aspects of the working relationship. Facts relevant to the employer’s control over the worker include whether the employer sets the worker’s schedule, supervises the performance of the work, or explicitly limits the worker’s ability to work for others. Additionally, facts relevant to the employer’s control over the worker include whether the employer uses technological means of supervision (such as by means of a device or electronically), reserves the right to supervise or discipline workers, or places demands on workers’ time that do not allow them to work for others or work when they choose. Whether the employer controls economic aspects of the working relationship should also be considered, including control over prices or rates for services and the marketing of the services or products provided by the worker. Control implemented by the employer for purposes of complying with legal obligations, safety standards, or contractual or customer service standards may be indicative of control. More indicia of control by the employer favors employee status; more indicia of control by the worker favors independent contractor status.
(5) Extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business. This factor considers whether the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business. This factor does not depend on whether any individual worker in particular is an integral part of the business, but rather whether the function they perform is an integral part. This factor weighs in favor of the worker being an employee when the work they perform is critical, necessary, or central to the employer’s principal business. This factor weighs in favor of the worker being an independent contractor when the work they perform is not critical, necessary, or central to the employer’s principal business.
(6) Skill and initiative. This factor considers whether the worker uses specialized skills to perform the work and whether those skills contribute to business-like initiative. This factor indicates employee status where the worker does not use specialized skills in performing the work or where the worker is dependent on training from the employer to perform the work. Where the worker brings specialized skills to the work relationship, it is the worker’s use of those specialized skills in connection with business-like initiative that indicates that the worker is an independent contractor.
(7) Additional factors. Additional factors may be relevant in determining whether the worker is an employee or independent contractor for purposes of the FLSA, if the factors in some way indicate whether the worker is in business for themself, as opposed to being economically dependent on the employer for work.
If any provision of this part is held to be invalid or unenforceable by its terms, or as applied to any person or circumstance, or stayed pending further agency action, the provision shall be construed so as to continue to give the maximum effect to the provision permitted by law, unless such holding shall be one of utter invalidity or unenforceability, in which event the provision shall be severable from this part and shall not affect the remainder thereof.