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United States Department of Labor announces final rule on classifying workers as employees or independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) annouced its final rule for classifying workers as employees or independent contractors. The new rule rescinds the Trump DOL rule that was effective in 2021.

For Massachusetts businesses, the new rule is interesting but largely irrelevant because Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute is so much more stringent that either the DOL’s new rule or the rule it is replacing. The Massachusetts statute says that a worker is an employee unless

(1) the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under his contract for the performance of service and in fact; and

(2) the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and,

(3) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.

G.L. c. 149, Section 148B

This standard is harder to meet than the DOL’s new rule. The following is the DOL’s announcement of the new rule.

Rescinds 2021 independent contractor rule; replaces it with analysis consistent with caselaw

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a final rule to help employers and workers better understand when a worker qualifies as an employee and when they may be considered an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The rule provides guidance on proper classification and seeks to combat employee misclassification, a serious problem that impacts workers’ rights to minimum wage and overtime pay, facilitates wage theft, allows some employers to undercut their law-abiding competition and hurts the economy at-large.

“Misclassifying employees as independent contractors is a serious issue that deprives workers of basic rights and protections,” explained Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su. “This rule will help protect workers, especially those facing the greatest risk of exploitation, by making sure they are classified properly and that they receive the wages they’ve earned.”

The guidance provided by the final rule aligns with longstanding judicial precedent on which employers have previously relied to determine a worker’s status as either an employee or independent contractor. The new rule will preserve essential worker rights and provide consistency for entities covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The new “independent contractor” rule restores the multifactor analysis used by courts for decades, ensuring that all relevant factors are analyzed to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. The rule addresses six factors that guide the analysis of a worker’s relationship with an employer, including any opportunity for profit or loss a worker might have; the financial stake and nature of any resources a worker has invested in the work; the degree of permanence of the work relationship; the degree of control an employer has over the person’s work; whether the work the person does is essential to the employer’s business; and a factor regarding the worker’s skill and initiative.

The rule separately rescinds the 2021 Independent Contractor Rule that the department believes is not consistent with the law and longstanding judicial precedent.

In crafting the new rule, the department’s Wage and Hour Division considered feedback provided by stakeholders at forums in the summer of 2022 and during the comment period after the proposal’s announcement in October 2022. The final rule takes effect on March 11, 2024.

Source: US Department of Labor announces final rule on classifying workers as employees or independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act | U.S. Department of Labor

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