Employers continue to face legal trouble over whether some of their employees are independent contractors. From an employer’s perspective, this is an important issue with financial consequences. If a worker is an independent contractor, the employer does not bear the costs that they would with other employees. For instance, the employer is not required to pay minimum wage or their share of social security. Recent examples of employees bearing their own costs as independent contractors include FedEx drivers buying or leasing their own vans and Uber drivers paying for their own vehicles, gas and other expenses.
There does not appear to be an end to this issue as workers continue to contest their classification as independent contractors throughout the country. In 2015, FedEx settled an independent contractor mislabeling case for $228 million. Uber also faced an independent contractor mislabeling suit and settled for $100 million with 450,000 drivers in Massachusetts and California. Uber continues to have legal issues with the misclassification of drivers throughout the country as a putative class action of drivers from the remaining 48 states was filed in Illinois Federal Court.
While companies like Uber and FedEx are facing these ongoing legal battles, the Department of Labor attempted to resolve the issue. In July of 2015, the DOL provided some guidance to help employers determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. According to the Department of Labor, the factors to be considered are:
- The extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business.
- The worker’s opportunity for profit or loss depending on his or her managerial skills.
- The extent of the relevant investments of the employer and workers.
- Whether the work performed requires special skills and initiative.
- The permanency of the relationship.
- The degree of control exercised or retained by the employer.
While these factors are useful in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, the DOL rejects a mechanical approach and no single factor is determinative. This issue continues to be very much unsettled and a resolution in the future can have important consequences on both employers and employees with regard to overtime, insurance and taxes.