Photo of Michael E. Brewer

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)

Baker McKenzie’s North America Trade Secrets Practice is a true cross-disciplinary team of industry ranked and recognized intellectual property, employment, tech transaction, litigation and trial attorneys exclusively dedicated to helping clients identify, protect, prosecute and defend their most valuable, complex and market-differentiating trade secrets throughout the US, Canada, Mexico and globally.

Our Focus on Trade

Special thanks to Celeste Ang and Stephen Ratcliffe.

We launched the seventh annual edition of The Year Ahead: Global Disputes Forecast, a research-based thought leadership surveying 600 senior legal and risk leaders from large organizations around the world and highlights key issues we anticipate to be crucial for disputes for this year.

Combining the views of 600 senior in-house lawyers at multinational companies across four continents with the insights of Baker McKenzie experts in tax, employment and antitrust, the 7th Edition of our Global Disputes Forecast helps in-house counsel see around corners as they prepare for 2024. The forecast includes detailed predictions for disputes involving ESG, cybersecurity

Tracking and complying with federal, state, and local wage and hour requirements has long been top of mind for employer as wage and hour liability continues to be one of the most expense employment law risks. Indeed, in 2022, the 10 largest reported settlements for wage and hour actions totaled $574 million.

Currently, in

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
You signed a noncompete,
That may not be true.

Last year, California lawmakers double-downed on the state’s hostility to noncompete agreements. One of the new provisions requires written notice to current and former employees that their noncompete is void – unless an exception applies – by Valentine’s Day (February 14, 2024).

Two New Bills Restricting Noncompetes in California

First, as covered in our Legislative Reference Guide, SB 699 extends the reach of the state’s ban on noncompetes to contracts signed out of state; creates a private right of action for employees whose agreements include restrictive covenants and provides for attorney fees for any current, former, or even prospective employee who successfully brings suit against an employer’s use of those restrictive covenants.

Second, AB 1076, codifies the 2008 Edward v. Arthur Andersen decision that invalidated all employment noncompetes, including narrowly tailored ones, unless they satisfy a statutory exception. In addition, impacting your Valentine’s Day plans, the legislation requires California employers to individually notify current and former employees employed since January 1, 2022 in writing by February 14, 2024 that their noncompete clauses are void. Individualized notice is required to the employee’s last known mailing and email addresses.Continue Reading No Love Lost: California’s Continued Crackdown on Noncompetes Requires Breakup Letters Sent Before Valentine’s Day

Does your holiday wish list include CLE credit and a quick tutorial on what to expect in California labor and employment law next year?

Excellent!

Join us for our virtual California 2023-2024 Employment Law Update on Wednesday, December 13 @ 1PM PT.

2023 has been a year of dramatic change for California employers, but have

In 2023, we helped US employers overcome a host of new challenges across the employment law landscape. Many companies started the year with difficult cost-cutting decisions and hybrid work challenges. More recently, employers faced challenges around intense political discourse boiling over in the workplace. We’ve worked hard to keep our clients ahead of the curve on these

Presented by the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law in collaboration with Baker McKenzie.

On November 8, join thought leaders from government, the judiciary, academia, and private practice for this timely gathering on the Georgetown Law campus in Washington, DC. Laws and policy surrounding the protection of trade secrets are changing as technology

On September 8, 2023, the Department of Labor announced publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales, and Computer Employees.

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division is proposing to update and revise the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations implementing the minimum wage and overtime