Independent Contractor

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)

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

New York may soon restrict employers and employment agencies from using fully-automated decision making tools to screen job candidates or make other employment decisions that impact the compensation, benefits, work schedule, performance evaluations, or other terms of employment of employees or independent contractors. Draft Senate Bill 7623, introduced August 4, aims to limit the use of such tools and requires human oversight of certain final decisions regarding hiring, promotion, termination, disciplinary, or compensation decisions. Senate Bill 7623 also significantly regulates the use of certain workplace monitoring technologies, going beyond the notice requirements for workplace monitoring operative in New York since May 2022 and introducing data minimization and proportionality requirements that are becoming increasingly common in US state privacy laws.

While there is not yet a federal law focused on AI (the Biden administration and federal agencies have issued guidance documents on AI use and are actively studying the issue), a number of cities and states have introduced bills or resolutions relating to AI in the workplace. These state and local efforts are all at different stages of the legislative process, with some paving the path for others. For example, New York City’s Local Law 144 took effect on July 5, prohibiting employers and employment agencies from using certain automated employment decision tools unless the tools have undergone a bias audit within one year of the use of the tools, information about the bias audit is publicly available, and certain notices have been provided to employees or job candidates (read more here).

If enacted, Senate Bill 7623 would take things much further. Here are some of the most significant implications of the draft legislation:Continue Reading Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: New York and Other States Have Big Plans For Employer Use of AI and Other Workplace Monitoring Tools

Many thanks to our Franchise, Distribution & Global Brand Expansion  colleagues Abhishek Dubé, Kevin Maher, and Will Woods for co-authoring this post.

Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute applies to the franchisor-franchisee relationship and is not in conflict with the franchisor’s disclosure obligations under the FTC Franchise Rule (the “FTC Rule”), according to

On May 5, 2021, the US Department of Labor (DOL) announced the withdrawal of the previous administration’s independent contractor rule, effective May 6, 2021. The DOL has not proposed any regulatory guidance to replace the rule, leaving employers with no clear guidance on worker classification under the FLSA.

The withdrawal is no surprise. The DOL

The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed to put the final nail in the coffin on two Trump era rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that were favorable to employers. On March 12, 2021, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division published in the Federal Register both a proposed rule to rescind the Trump administration’s rule on joint employer status under the FLSA and a proposed rule to withdraw the Trump administration’s rule on independent contractor status under the FLSA. In both cases, the DOL is seeking public comments for 30 days (until April 11, 2021). Neither of these proposed rules comes as a surprise to those keeping tabs on the Biden administration’s agenda, but the DOL has not proposed any new guidance, leaving employers wondering what comes next.
Continue Reading The DOL Proposes to Nix the Trump Administration’s Joint Employer and Independent Contractor Rules

The DOL’s just-issued final rule on employee vs. independent contractor classifications under the FLSA seems likely to be reversed. On January 20, the White House issued a memorandum to the heads of all executive departments and agencies ordering them to halt all non-emergency rulemaking and regulatory activity issued under the previous administration pending review by

Businesses engaging independent contractors have new guidance from the Department of Labor (DOL) for determining whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor, but the guidance may never take effect. On January 6, 2021, the DOL issued a final rule for determining whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor. The rule focuses on whether workers are economically dependent on another business–making them more likely to be an employee of that business, and entitled to the minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)–or are economically dependent upon themselves, making them true independent contractors.
Continue Reading DOL Announces Final Rule for FLSA Worker Classification Focused on Economic Dependence-But Its Future is Uncertain

The federal guidance on whether to classify a worker as an employee or an independent contractor continues to shift, as the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a new proposed rule favorable for companies. If finalized, the rule may provide businesses with greater latitude to engage independent contractors.
Continue Reading New DOL Proposed Rule Makes It Easier For Companies to Engage Independent Contractors

As predicted, on Friday, California Governor Newsom signed AB 2257 into law. The most significant changes are expanding the exemptions to AB 5’s coverage, that is, widening the range of occupations that will be held to an earlier standard for determining employment status. The new law takes effect immediately. For our coverage of AB 2257,