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Department of Labor Issues New Proposed Rule on Independent Contractors

The US Department of Labor recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that, if adopted, would change the standard for analyzing a worker’s classification as either an employee or independent contractor. The new rules are a reversion to prior tests, which consider certain “economic reality factors;” factors that were originally set out in a pair of cases before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1947 (See United States v. Silk, 331 U.S. 704, and Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb, 331 U.S. 722).

The six non-exhaustive and unweighted factors flowing from those cases and included in this new rule are:

  • The worker’s opportunity for profit or loss depending on managerial skill;
  • The relative investment of the worker and the employer in the equipment, materials, or helpers required for their task;
  • The degree of permanence of the work relationship
  • Nature and degree of control – whether the employer has the right to control the manner in which the work is to be performed;
  • The extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business;
  • Whether the service rendered requires a special skill or initiative.

These proposed rules are open for public comment until November 28, 2022.

Relatedly, the Internal Revenue Service recently “streamlined” its various “20 Factor” and other tests for independent contractor determination. See, IRS Publication, Topic No. 762. The Service now groups the prior multiple factors into three topics. The IRS Publication states the employer in making its determination, “must examine the relationship between the worker and the business. You should consider all evidence of the degree of control and independence in this relationship. The facts that provide this evidence fall into three categories – Behavioral Control, Financial Control, and Relationship of the Parties.” We add, however, that this “restatement” of IRS policy allows consideration of the prior “20 Factors,” or any others. While worker classification is likely to resolve similarly under DOL and IRS rules, the employer of course must consider both, lest it fall short in one regulatory arena or the other.

We all know that employee misclassification can result in severe financial consequences. Businesses and employers should remain diligent in analyzing their workers’ classifications and consult an experienced attorney with any questions. The attorneys at Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap, PC will continue to monitor these developments and stand ready to guide clients in their compliance with any new regulation.

Attorney David J. HoustonFraser Trebilcock Shareholder Dave Houston has over 40 years of experience representing employers in planning, counseling, and litigating virtually all employment claims and disputes including labor relations (NLRB and MERC), wage and overtime, and employment discrimination, and negotiation of union contracts. He has authored numerous publications regarding employment issues. You can reach him at 517.377.0855 or dhouston@fraserlawfirm.com.

Attorney Robert D. Burgee

Robert D. Burgee is an attorney at Fraser Trebilcock with over a decade of experience counseling clients with a focus on corporate structures and compliance, licensing, contracts, regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and a host of other matters related to the operation of small and medium-sized businesses and non-profits. You can reach him at 517.377.0848 or at bburgee@fraserlawfirm.com.

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