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The Department of Labor’s “new” rule for classifying workers as employees or independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act took effect March 11, 2024. The DOL’s Final Rule returns employers to a familiar pre-Trump administration totality of the circumstances test that focuses on the “economic realities” of the worker’s situation. The practical impact is that it is now harder for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors, and it will likely increase federal wage and hour claims.

There are mounting legal challenges to the Final Rule contesting the DOL’s rulemaking authority. However, to date, none of the suits have been successful at blocking implementation of the Final Rule. So, for now, it stands.

Practice pointer: different legal tests for different laws

Employers new to the US are often baffled to learn that no single test exists to evaluate independent contractor status for all purposes. This means compliance is complicated since different tests may apply depending on the context. And yes, this also means that it’s feasible for a worker to be an independent contractor for some purposes and an employee for others (such as under state and federal law, for example). Continue reading for a summary of the key tests that come up most often for US multinationals.

Why does this matter?

Misclassification is a key issue for US employers since many laws apply only to employees – not independent contractors. Thus, if workers are misclassified as independent contractors and subsequently determined to be employees under the law, a cascade of unforeseen obligations will be thrust upon the company.

Misclassification can lead to significant liability. The FLSA requires employers to provide minimum wage and overtime pay to qualified employees—but not to independent contractors. In addition, most employees, especially full-time employees, are also entitled to various statutory benefits, such as state law paid sick leave entitlements, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, and to benefits under an employer’s ERISA-governed benefit plans, such as group health insurance policies and 401(k) plans. Failure to properly classify workers can result in substantial damages and penalties (even if unintentional), including: back pay, including overtime compensation; employee benefits, including stock options, retirement benefits, and health plan coverage; disability payments and workers’ compensation; tax and insurance obligations; liquidated damages; and civil monetary penalties.Continue Reading New DOL Rule Makes it Harder for Businesses to Classify Workers as Independent Contractors Under the FLSA (Plus a Quick Reminder of the Key Misclassification Standards Across the US)

You’re not alone in wondering where the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) final regulations to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) are. In fact, they are well past their due date.

How it started

The PWFA became effective on June 27, 2023. In August 2023, the EEOC published proposed regulations to implement the PWFA. (We outlined the proposed regulations in our blog here, and about the PWFA here). The public comment period for the proposed regulations closed October 10, 2023, and the proposed regulations were delivered to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) on December 27, 2023 for review.

How it is going

However, to date, no final regulations have been issued, despite the PWFA’s requirement that the EEOC issue regulations by December 29, 2023. The regulations, once finalized, will provide clarity for employers implementing policies and practices to comply with the PWFA. For instance, the proposed regulations outline a nonexhaustive list of what the EEOC considers potential accommodations under the PWFA, including job restructuring and part-time or modified work schedules.

However, even without final regulations in place, employers are required to meet the PWFA’s mandates. The proposed regulations can still be used to offer insight into how the EEOC believes the PWFA should be interpreted.Continue Reading Pregnant Pause: The EEOC’s Delay In Issuing Final Regulations For The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Should Not Delay Compliance

As a consistent trend-setter in passing employee-friendly legislation, California has enacted the country’s first workplace violence prevention safety requirements applicable to nearly all employers in the state.

SB 553 requires California employers to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan, train employees on workplace violence, and begin logging incidents by July 1, 2024.

Detailed Requirements for a Written Plan

The workplace violence prevention plan must be written, available and easily accessible to employees (as well as authorized employee representatives and Cal/OSHA representatives).Continue Reading California Employers: Prepare Your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (Deadline In T-Minus 3 Months)

Earlier this year, many of you tuned into our 2023 – 2024 Employer Update webinars to plant seeds for success for the year ahead.

Now, to ensure your compliance efforts are blooming, we’re sharing detailed checklists to help you ensure you’re ticking all the boxes!

The new year brought some good news for California employers. On January 1, 2024, U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller issued a decision permanently enjoining California state officials from enforcing AB 51, the contested law that sought to prohibit employers from “forcing” job applicants or employees to enter into pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements covering certain discrimination and retaliation claims. The permanent injunction reaffirmed the ability of employers to mandate arbitration for most employment disputes.

This decision comes less than a year after the Ninth Circuit found that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts AB 51 in Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Bonta. As noted in our blog post on the Bonta decision, the Ninth Circuit ultimately upheld a temporary injunction against AB 51, allowing California employers to continue to use employment arbitration agreements while the matter was litigated, and which—given Judge Mueller’s permanent injunction—now can continue indefinitely.

The Lead Up: Recap of the AB 51 Litigation Battle

Here is a quick summary of the AB 51 litigation leading up to the January 1, 2024 permanent injunction:

  • In December 2019, Judge Mueller issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting California from enforcing AB 51.
  • In September 2021, the Ninth Circuit struck down Judge Mueller’s decision to temporarily restrain California from enforcing AB 51, holding that AB 51 was not largely preempted by the FAA.
  • In August 2022, the Ninth Circuit withdrew its September 2021 decision and voted to take another look at the case through a panel rehearing.
  • In February 2023, the Ninth Circuit, backtracking on their September 2021 decision, held that AB 51 is preempted by the FAA because the deterring penalties that AB 51 imposes on employers is antithetical to the FAA’s policy of favoring arbitration agreements.

Continue Reading End of the AB 51 Saga: California Employers Can and Should Continue Using Arbitration Agreements

Illinois employers navigated an avalanche of new laws in 2023, with more on the horizon in 2024 (and even 2025). New paid leave obligations for Illinois (and Chicago and Cook County) employers are a significant change, and additional developments expand employer liability in some circumstances where individuals are victims of gender-related violence. There are also new obligations for employers who use temporary employees, and increased protections for striking workers–not to mention a soon-to-be requirement for employers to include pay scale and benefits information in job postings starting January 1, 2025.

Here are key updates that Illinois employers should be aware of for 2024–and beyond.

1. New paid leave laws in Illinois, Chicago and Cook County

Employers in Illinois, Chicago and Cook County have new paid leave obligations for 2024 under three new laws:

  • The Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act (PLAWA) (effective January 1, 2024) requires Illinois employers to provide most employees with a minimum of 40 hours of paid leave per year to be used for any reason at allnot just for sick leave.
  • The Cook County Paid Leave Ordinance (effective December 31, 2023, the sunset date of the prior Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance) covers employees who work in Cook County and largely mirrors the PLAWA. The Cook County Commission on Human Rights will begin enforcement of the paid leave Ordinance on February 1, 2024.
  • The Chicago Paid Leave and Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance (effective July 1, 2024) will require covered employers to provide eligible employees 40 hours of paid sick leave and 40 hours of paid leave (the latter usable for any reason) per 12-month accrual period, for a total entitlement of up to 80 hours of PTO per 12-month period.

Importantly, under both the PLAWA and the Cook County Paid Leave Ordinance:

  • Eligible employees earn 1 hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a minimum of 40 hours in a 12-month period (with exempt employees presumed to work 40 hours per workweek for accrual purposes, but leave accrues based on their regular workweek if their regular workweek is less than 40 hours)
  • Though unused accrued paid leave from one 12-month period can be carried over to the next, employers can cap the use of paid leave in one 12-month period to 40 hours
  • Frontloading is permitted, and employers who frontload 40 hours at the beginning of the 12-month period are not required to carry over unused accrued paid leave
  • Employers cannot require employees to provide a reason they are using paid leave, or any documentation or certification as proof or in support of paid leave

The Chicago Paid Leave Ordinance diverges from the PLAWA and the Cook County Ordinance in several ways, including:

  • Covered employees will accrue one hour of paid sick leave and one hour of paid leave for every 35 hours worked-five hours less than what is required to accrue an hour of paid leave under the PLAWA or Cook County Ordinance
  • Employees may carryover up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and up to 16 hours of paid leave from one 12-month accrual period to the next
  • Employers may frontload 40 hours of paid sick leave and 40 hours of paid leave on the first day of the 12-month accrual period. Frontloaded paid leave does not carry over from one 12-month period to the next (unless the employer prevents the employee from having meaningful access to their PTO), but up to 80 hours of unused paid sick leave does
  • Employers with more than 50 employees in Chicago are required to pay the employee the monetary equivalent of unused accrued paid leave when an employee separates from the employer or transfers outside of the City of Chicago (see chart below for specifics)
  • Unlike in the PLAWA or Cook County Ordinance, unlimited PTO is specifically addressed in the Chicago Paid Leave Ordinance (so employers with unlimited PTO policies should review the Ordinance closely)

Continue Reading A Legislative Snowstorm: Key 2024 Updates for Illinois Employers Include a Number of New Leave Obligations and More

Special thanks to co-presenters Teresa Michaud and Bradford Newman.

California’s CLE Compliance Deadline Is Approaching…    
We can help!

If your last name starts with H-M, you are probably well aware that your CLE compliance deadline is right around the corner – February 1, 2024. In addition to the general credit requirement, the state of California requires all attorneys to complete:

  • At least four hours of legal ethics
  • At least one hour on competence issues
  • At least two hours on the elimination of bias in the legal profession and society. Of the two hours, at least one hour must focus on implicit bias and the promotion of bias-reducing strategies.

Our lawyers will offer three virtual sessions, focused on key considerations for AI development and utilization, to help you meet your CLE requirements. These sessions will also offer CLE credit in the states of Illinois, Texas, and New York. Participants requesting CLE for other states will receive uniform CLE certificates. 

Please register and let us know which individual session(s) you plan to attend. We look forward to your participation!


Promoting Unity: Overcoming the Risks of Bias and Prejudice in the Workplace

Tuesday, January 16, 2024 | 1:00 – 2:00 pm Pacific
1 hour Elimination of Bias credit (pending approval)Continue Reading California AI CLE Series

New York never rests–especially for employers–and 2023 was no exception. In 2023, New York employers were required to continuously pivot to meet new obligations and adhere to new limitations under freshly-enacted laws, and to closely follow landmark legislation that would significantly impact the workplace if signed. At the top of the list: S3100, a bill that would have banned employers’ use of employee noncompetes if signed (but employers can now breathe a sigh of relief, because Governor Hochul recently vetoed the bill). 2024 promises to continue to be dynamic for New York employers.

Here are ten of the most important changes New York employers need to know right now as we step into 2024–as well as what’s coming down the pike, a couple of important changes you may have missed, and what we’re keeping an eye on as we step into the new year.  

What you need to know right now

1. New York’s bill restricting noncompetes vetoed by Governor Hochul

On December 22, 2023 Governor Hochul vetoed S3100, which would have been the most restrictive state-level ban on employers’ use of noncompetes to date if it had been signed into law. Passed by the New York State Assembly in June 2023, S3100 provided that every contract restraining anyone from engaging in a lawful profession, trade or business of any kind is void to the extent of the restraint; allowed a private right of action for employees; and did not have an explicit “sale of business” exception (for more details on the now-vetoed legislation, see our prior blog here.)

The bill faced opposition by Wall Street and other industries that heavily rely on noncompetes, and business groups pushed for amendments to the bill (which the governor had until the end of 2023 to sign or veto). In late November, Governor Hochul reportedly stated she was in favor of striking a balance that would protect lower- and middle-income workers (up to $250,000) but allow noncompetes for those at higher income levels who are better equipped to negotiate on their own to do so. Reports are that Governor Hochul recently tried to negotiate amendments to the bill in this respect, but that negotiations broke down.

Employer takeaway:

  • We expect this issue to make an appearance in New York’s next legislative session. Employers should keep an eye out for the introduction of new bills to restrict noncompetes and follow their progress. Now that Governor Hochul has expressed favor for an income threshold to ban noncompetes, legislators may be more likely to craft a bill that will more easily be signed into law.

Continue Reading New York Employer “Top Ten” (and more): What to Know Heading into 2024

We’re not even out of 2023, and New York employers who engage independent contractors already have new obligations to reckon with before next spring. On November 22, 2023, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the New York State “Freelance Isn’t Free Act”, increasing obligations for parties who engage freelance workers (including independent contractors). Starting May 20, 2024, hiring parties (including employers who engage independent contractors) must provide freelance workers with written contracts, pay them within a specified time period, maintain records, and satisfy additional new obligations—and freelance workers will gain a private right of action for violations.

The Act replicates the 2017 NYC’s Freelance Isn’t Free Law, adding administrative oversight and support from the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Attorney General while maintaining New York City’s local law. The Act will apply to contracts entered into on or after the May 20, 2024 effective date.

Here are some key details:

Definitions: “freelance workers” and “hiring parties” 

The Act defines a “freelance worker” as “any natural person or organization composed of no more than one natural person, whether or not incorporated or employing a trade name, that is hired or retained as an independent contractor by a hiring party to provide services in exchange for an amount equal to or greater than eight hundred dollars”—but does not include certain sales representatives, practicing attorneys, licensed medical professionals, and construction contractors. Also, a “hiring party” is any person (other than government entities) who retains a freelance worker to provide any service.

Written contracts required

The Act requires a written contract if the freelance work is worth at least $800, inclusive of multiple projects over a 120-day period. The hiring party must furnish a copy of the contract, either physically or electronically. At a minimum, the written contract must include:

  1. The name and the mailing address of both the hiring party and the freelance worker;
  2. An itemization of all services to be provided by the freelance worker, the value of the services to be provided under the contract, and the rate and method of compensation;
  3. The date on which the hiring party must pay the contracted compensation (or the mechanism by which the date will be determined); and
  4. The date by which a freelance worker must submit to the hiring party a list of services rendered under the contract to meet the hiring party’s internal processing deadlines to allow compensation to be paid by the agreed-upon date.

The New York State Department of Labor will provide model contracts on its website for freelancers and hiring parties to use.Continue Reading More Scrutiny and Obligations for NY Businesses Engaging Independent Contractors Coming Spring 2024

Heads up, New York employers. New York recently expanded its #MeToo statute to bar some of the most common terms for which employers bargain in settlement agreements involving claims of discrimination, harassment or retaliation. On November 17, 2023, Governor Hochul signed S4516 into law, amending Section 5-336 of the General Obligations Law (“GOL”) (New York’s