As we have previously reported, California law utilizes the “ABC” test to determine if workers are employees or independent contractors for purposes of the Labor Code, the Unemployment Insurance Code, and the wage orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission.
Continue Reading Expanding Independent Contractors in California: New Law Awaits Governor’s Signature

As reported here and here, California recently enacted new legislation – Assembly Bill 5 – that expanded the scope of an “employee” under state law.  Beginning January 1, 2020, the answer to whether a person providing services in California is an independent contractor (as opposed to an employee) under the California Labor Code, the Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Orders, and the California Unemployment Insurance Code, will generally depend on whether they satisfy all three prongs of the so-called ABC Test:

  1. The worker must be free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work.
  2. The worker must perform work outside the “usual course” of the hirer’s business.
  3. The worker must be customarily engaged in an independent established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.

There are a myriad of occupational and industry exemptions to the application of the ABC Test, many of which are highlighted here.

Having tightened independent contractor classification standards, the next big target for the state legislature may be joint employer liability.


Continue Reading Back to the Joint Employer: Having Changed the Classification Test for Independent Contractors, Will the California Legislature Target the Joint Employer Test Next?

Last year, the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, a landmark decision that dramatically increased the risk of misclassifying individuals as independent contractors. As previously reported, although Dynamex replaced the longstanding Borello standard with the “ABC” test, it also left two critical questions unaddressed. First, Dynamex did not address whether the ABC test applies retroactively. Second, Dynamex did not decide whether its scope was limited to coverage under the Industrial Wage Commission’s (“IWC”) Wage Orders or if its holding generally applied to the Labor Code as a whole. In the last five days, both questions have been answered.

On May 2, 2019, the Ninth Circuit found that Dynamex applies retroactively under California law in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc., the most notable decision to date regarding Dynamex’s retroactivity. Shortly thereafter, on May 3, 2019, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”), California’s wage and hour enforcement agency, issued a letter opining the ABC test applies to both the IWC Wage Orders and any Labor Code provisions that enforce requirements set forth in the Wage Orders. Although neither the Ninth Circuit nor the DLSE can authoritatively interpret California law, these developments indicate that Dynamex’s scope—which governs hundreds of thousands of independent contractor relationships throughout the state—has continued to expand its already extensive reach.
Continue Reading The Future of Independent Contractors: Ninth Circuit Applies Dynamex Retroactively and the DLSE Issues Opinion Letter Expanding Its Scope

Albert Einstein believed “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” The Ninth Circuit seems to agree. In Gilberg v. Cal. Check Cashing Stores, LLC, No. 17-16263, 2019 WL 347027 (Ninth Cir. Jan. 29, 2019), the Ninth Circuit held a single form combining nearly identical federal and state disclosures violates both federal and state laws. Employers who conduct pre-employment background checks must now provide applicants with two separate standalone forms: (1) disclosure and consent under Fair Credit Reporting Act; and (2) disclosure and consent under California’s Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (or other applicable state law). This decision applies to employees providing services in the Ninth Circuit (California, Arizona, Hawaii, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington).
Continue Reading Complicating Simplicity: Ninth Circuit Requires Separate Stand-Alone Documents for Employment Background Checks

On July 26, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation (S234969) on whether California wage and hour law recognizes the de minimis doctrine established by the United States Supreme Court in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. 328 U.S. 680 (1946) for wage claims arising under federal law.  Under the federal de minimis rule, small amounts of otherwise compensable work time are not actionable when tracking and paying for it is impractical.  Anderson held: “When the matter in issue concerns only a few seconds or minutes of work beyond the scheduled working hours, such trifles may be disregarded.  Split-second absurdities are not justified by the actualities of working conditions or by the policy of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  It is only when an employee is required to give up a substantial measure of his time and effort that compensable working time is involved.”  Id. at 692.  In deciding whether compensable work time is de minimis, federal courts consider “(1) the practical administrative difficulty of recording the additional time; (2) the aggregate amount of compensable time; and (3) the regularity of the additional work.” See e.g. Lindow v. U.S. 738 F.2d 1057, 1063 (9th Cir. 1984); Kellar v. Summit Seating Inc., 664 F.3d 169, 176 (7th Cir. 2011); Kosakow v. New Rochelle Radiology Assocs., P.C. 274 F.3d 706, 719 (2d Cir. 2001).  Ten minutes or less is generally considered de minimis under federal law.  See Lindow, 738 F.2d at 1062.  The issue before the California Supreme Court in Troester (certified from the Ninth Circuit) was whether California wage and hour law recognizes the same or a similar rule.  Even though de minimis worktime is (by definition) small and insignificant, whether or not a de minimus exception to the requirement to pay for all time worked applies has major implications because relatively small amounts of unpaid wages have the potential to trigger substantial penalties and liability for plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees in California.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Issues Narrow Holding In De Minimis Case, Leaving Many Issues Unresolved

On Monday, April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in the matter of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles. In a voluminous, 82-page decision, the California Supreme Court reinterpreted and ultimately rejected the Borello test for determining whether workers should be classified as either employees or independent contractors for the purposes of the wage orders adopted by California’s Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) in favor of a worker-friendly standard that may upend the existing independent contractor labor market.

In particular, the Court embraced a standard presuming that all workers are employees instead of contractors, and placed the burden on any entity classifying an individual as an independent contractor of establishing that such classification is proper under the newly adopted “ABC test” which will be discussed in further detail below.
Continue Reading The Dynamex Decision: The California Supreme Court Restricts Use of Independent Contractors

On November 12, 2014, in Greg Landers v. Quality Communications Inc., the Ninth Circuit clarified a previously unsettled point of law by confirming that Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) pleadings must meet the specificity requirements established in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).  Affirming the dismissal of a proposed class action against cable services company Quality Communications Inc. for unpaid overtime wages, the three-judge panel ruled that the trial court had acted properly in dismissing the suit because, in light of Twombly and Iqbal, the plaintiff’s pleadings lacked sufficient specificity to state a claim under the FLSA.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Rules That Twombly Standard of Specificity Applies to FLSA Pleadings