The California State Assembly passes a Bill that codifies the infamous “ABC” test for independent contractor determination — will the Senate follow suit, and will the Governor sign the new legislation into law?

The New Bill

On May 29, 2019, by a 55-11 vote, the state Assembly passed AB 5, a bill that would codify the California’s Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court.  
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Hiring Entity:  When are gig workers employees?

Four Government Agencies & Courts:  It depends!

Trying to track the employment status of gig workers will make your head spin. Contractors? Employees? Super heroes?

In the last few weeks, four federal and California state agencies and courts — the US Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the California Labor Commissioner — have all weighed in on the debate. And, the answer is — it depends.

Follow our script below to help make sense of the patchy legal landscape.


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In last Thursday’s Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising, the Ninth Circuit made several impactful findings related to the infamous Dynamex decision:

  1. Aligning with several state court decisions supporting retroactivity, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Dynamex’s ABC test applies retroactively.
  2. It also applied Dynamex to a multi-level franchise structure, expanding the test beyond the independent contractor context.
  3. Last, the Court issued guidance to the district court on remand reaffirming the difficulty of “passing” the ABC test.


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Even as IPOs bloom this spring in the technology sector, there exists well publicized macro-economic uncertainty, stemming from Brexit concerns, among other developments. Real threats to free trade and investment flows remain, with the potential for a much more serious outbreak of protectionism and isolation on a global scale. A recession may or may not be looming, depending on the day and your media outlet.

In these uncertain times, the best counsel know to be prepared for everything, including business change. To successfully manage global business change, in-house counsel must identify potential legal roadblocks, plan ahead and provide a strategic approach. Counsel must be prepared for everything, including some tough decisions:

  • Cost-realignment such as furloughs, compensation reduction or benefit forfeitures;
  • Workforce reductions;
  • Reorganizations; and
  • Transfer relocation and seconding of employees.


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(With thanks to our colleagues in Mexico for this alert.)

What’s changed?

On January 25, 2019, more than 45,000 employees from 45 different manufacturing sites in Matamoros, Tamaulipas initiated a strike, which was allegedly incited by an activist outside the region. Their demands were a 20% salary increase and a significant increase in annual bonus to MXN $32,251.40 (about USD $1,600) per employee.


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On January 25, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board reaffirmed its adherence to the traditional common law independent contractor test for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the National Labor Relations Act.

In SuperShuttle DFW, Inc., the Board expressly overruled its 2014 FedEx Home Delivery decision. In FedEx, the Board drastically reduced the significance of entrepreneurial opportunity in the determination of independent contractor status. FedEx emphasized the right to control factors relevant to the so-called “economic realities” test and gave weight to whether a worker was in fact “seizing” actual opportunities and rendering services as part of their own independent business.

SuperShuttle DFW, Inc. is significant as it abandons the Obama-era standard and gives a boost to companies using contract labor by elevating the importance of entrepreneurial opportunity in the independent contractor analysis. Insodoing, the Board returns the legal framework to its traditional common law roots and adds the examination of entrepreneurial opportunity. The decision suggests that moving forward, the Board “evaluate the common-law factors through the prism of entrepreneurial opportunity when the specific factual circumstances of the case make such an evaluation appropriate.”


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(Thank you to our Baker McKenzie colleagues in Mexico for sharing this alert.)

As a result of a change in government leadership and recently signed laws and treaties, companies in Mexico now have an important “to do” for 2019: prepare to review any unions that are “on the books” and assess compliance in this new environment.

What are “White Unions”?

  • White Unions in Mexico are usually employer-friendly unions that — due to current legislation deficiencies — can effectively bar entry of other unions who might otherwise attempt to gain a foothold in the workplace. They have little to no actual membership and do not actively represent workers. Historically, any union could petition for unionization without the need to prove the support of workers.

What changed?


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Government contractors are familiar with the obligation to retain minority or women-owned businesses as subcontractors to obtain government work. Increasingly, apex private sector businesses require participation by minority or women-owned businesses as a condition of obtaining work, as well.

A recent decision by the federal court for the Southern District of New York is a cautionary tale, and highlights the care required when terminating a minority business enterprise (MBE) sub-contractor. Annuity Funds Operating Engineers Local 15 v. Tightseal, No. 17-CV-3670 (S.D.N.Y. August 14, 2018).


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Today, an estimated 40 million people are living in modern day slavery—including an estimated 16 million individuals in forced labor across global supply chains.

Given the importance of this issue, we are proud to introduce a new publication, Eradicating Slavery: A Guide for CEOs. Prepared by the B Team in partnership with Baker McKenzie, this

In recent years, joint employer liability has emerged as a persistent threat for companies who use franchise business models. Franchisors are increasingly facing claims brought by employees of franchisees for entitlements flowing from their employment. The outcome in these cases is unpredictable because the law is undergoing change. As such, the joint employer aspects of