The Department of Labor has issued a new proposed rule to provide guidance on the classification of independent contractors and employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and as discussed by Foley’s Labor and Employment team in its employment log blog. The proposed rulemaking is intended to combat employee misclassification and may have a significant impact on the gig economy, franchisors, and distributors. The proposed rule is part of an ongoing effort to expand restrictions around entities benefitting from relationships with independent contractors.
The proposed rule (“2022 Rule”) is set to replace the Department’s prior rule published at the tail end of Donald Trump’s presidential term (“2021 Rule”). The 2021 Rule departed from the Department’s longstanding totality-of-the-circumstances test. Notably, the 2021 Rule focused its analysis on two “core factors”—the nature and degree of control over the work and the worker’s opportunity for profit and loss. The 2021 Rule provided that if these core factors pointed towards the same classification (i.e., both favor independent contractor status or vice versa), there was a substantial likelihood that classification was accurate for determining the worker’s status. The 2021 Rule had three additional less probative, “non-core” factors: the amount of skill required for the work, the degree of permanence of the working relationship between the worker and the employer, and whether the work is part of an integrated unit of production. These additional non-core factors generally only impacted the analysis when the “core factors” conflicted.
Now, however, the Department seeks to rescind the prior rule—determining that its retention would have a confusing and disruptive effect on workers and businesses due to the 2021 Rule’s supposed departure from longstanding case law. The proposed 2022 Rule revives the totality-of-the-circumstances analysis of the economic reality test, where the factors do not have a predetermined weight and no factor is dispositive.
The Department believes that restoring this version of the economic realities test re-aligns the Department with the existing judicial precedent and is more grounded in the ultimate inquiry of whether a worker is in business for themself or is economically dependent on the employer for work.
Specifically, in the Department’s news release, it provided that the new proposed rule would do the following: