Why You Should Care About Compliance

Forbes.com
POST WRITTEN BY Gene Zaino
JUL 27, 2017 @ 08:00 AM

As the on-demand economy grows, independent professionals are becoming a larger and more essential part of the workforce. The number of self-employed Americans rose to nearly 41 million in 2017 and is predicted to rise to 47.6 million in just five years. This shift away from traditional employment allows independents to work on their own terms while organizations that engage them fill skills shortage gaps, gain staffing flexibility, and realize lower costs.

Coupled with this growth, however, we’ve seen an increase in federal and state government efforts to combat employees being misclassified as independent contractors. In June, the Department of Labor (DOL) removed the Obama-era guidance about joint employment and independent contractors. While it has been widely reported that this withdrawal does not change the legal responsibilities of employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it may indicate that the current administration is taking a more traditional view of employment relationships, as opposed to past interpretation of these documents that assumed most workers were employees.

We’ve seen the results of these actions in the increase in class-action lawsuits, such as Citigroup’s $325,000 settlement for misclassification of technology workers, Zenefits’ $3.4 million payment to misclassified employees for unpaid overtime, and FedEx’s $228 million settlement for misclassification of delivery drivers.
Lawsuits like these are just one of many very real consequences of misclassification, but avoiding a misclassification suit isn’t the only reason to care about how one should engage independent talent.

Here are three reasons compliance should be top of mind for all organizations that engage independent professionals.

Compliance Aids In Proper Classification

Classification of independent contractors is not a clear-cut process. Federal, state and local government agencies use a variety of tests to determine whether or not a worker is a true independent contractor.

Just because independent contractors call themselves an independent contractor doesn’t mean they are one in the eyes of the law. Independents come from various backgrounds and experience levels and have different levels of self-employability. When engaging independent talent, it’s up to organizations to make a final determination of classification, but because tests vary from agency to agency and because regulations are constantly changing, these decisions can be complex.

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Executive Orders Impacting Construction in 2015

12/31/2014 by Daniel Frost 

 

In 2014 Barack Obama issued over 30 executive orders as promised in his State of the Union Address.  At least three of these orders are notable and will impact federal contractors and workers performing construction and construction management services.

On February 12, 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13658, which raises the minimum wage for workers on federal construction and service contracts to $10.10.  This order applies to procurements subsequent to January 1, 2015, and provides that after 2015, increases to the minimum wage will be tied to the Consumer Price Index.  The Department of Labor will be charged with enforcement and rulemaking on implementation and remedies for violations is already underway.

On July 21, 2014 President Obama signed Executive Order 13672, which extends the antidiscrimination protections of two previous executive orders to LGBT federal workers.  This order now prohibits discrimination in the federal civilian workforce on the basis of gender identity or hiring by federal contractors on the basis of sexual identity or gender identity.  Federal contractors will also be required to engage in certain affirmative action to provide equal opportunity to LGBT federal workers.  Final rules have been promulgated and the order looks to become effective early next year.  Enforcement will be through the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Also on July 21, 2014 President Obama signed Executive Order 13673 which requires that for all federal contracts over $500,000, prospective contractors must disclose various labor violations as set forth in the text of the order.  Any violations so disclosed will be considered in determining whether the contractor is a responsible source.  Additionally, the information provided on violations must be updated every six months during the performance of the contract.  The order also prohibits contractors from relying on pre-dispute arbitration agreements to resolve various civil rights and tort claims where the amount of the contract is over $1 million.  Contractors with multiple serious violations in the past are now at risk for suspension and debarment.

It is too early to know for certain the precise risks and burdens of these new executive orders, but it is clear that from 2015 forward, the regulatory and oversight environment will be significantly increased for government contractors.

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Clay company ordered to pay $380,000 in back wages to 300 workers

By Rick Moriarty
on December 04, 2014 at 12:41 PM, updated December 04, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Syracuse, N.Y. – A Syracuse area contractor has been ordered to pay $380,000 in back wages to more than 300 drywall installers that federal officials said were misclassified as independent contractors.

The U.S. Department of Labor sued General Interior Systems Inc., of Clay, in U.S. District Court in Syracuse in 2008, alleging the company misclassified employees to avoid paying overtime and other benefits.

GIS and its owner and president, Jeffrey Mento, admitted to the misclassification and agreed to pay back wages in a settlement with the DOL in August last year.

DOL spokesman Ted Fitzgerald said the department was making the settlement public now to highlight the issue of misclassification and to seek the public’s help in finding the employees who are owed the back wages. Some of the 300 workers have moved and left no forwarding address, he said.

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Labor Department Sharpening Focus on Misclassification

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
By K. W. Mitchell

In combating employee misclassification, the Labor Department is taking strategic misclassification enforcement to the next level by placing greater priority on measures that are tactical and swift, a department official said.

“To carry out our job, we must be prudent and strategic in our enforcement actions,” said David Weil, administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division.

“We need to create ripple effects that impact compliance far beyond the workplaces where we physically conduct investigations, or the organizations to which we provide outreach directly,” Weil said Oct. 31 in a blog post.

Additionally, the division needs to be persistent in discovering ways to “make our investigation of one employer resonate throughout that particular sector and influence the behaviors of employers across that entire industry, to promote compliance across networks of business organizations,” Weil said.

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US Labor Department signs agreement with New Hampshire Department of Labor to reduce misclassification of employees

WHD News Release: [11/12/2014]

WASHINGTON – Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and the New Hampshire Department of Labor  has signed a memorandum of understanding with the goal of protecting the rights of employees by preventing their misclassification as something other than employees, such as independent contractors or other nonemployee statuses.

Under this agreement, both agencies will share information and coordinate law enforcement. The memorandum of understanding represents a new effort on the part of the agencies to work together to protect the rights of employees and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice of misclassification. The New Hampshire Department of Labor is the latest state agency to partner with the Labor Department.

“Misclassification of employees deprives workers of rightfully-earned wages and workplace protections and undercuts law-abiding businesses,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Which is why combating misclassification is one of several important strategies to promote shared prosperity to help ensure that our economy works for everyone.”

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US Labor Department lawsuit alleges Wisconsin landscape service retaliated against 2 employees who filed complaint seeking overtime pay

U.S. Department of Labor   October 23, 2014
Wage and Hour Division

ARPIN, Wis. — The U.S. Department of Labor has sued Carl’s Landscape Service Inc. in Arpin, alleging that the company retaliated against two workers for contacting the department’s Wage and Hour Division with a complaint about unpaid overtime.

“The law prohibits employers from retaliating against any employee who files a complaint or cooperates in a Wage and Hour investigation,” said Theresa Walls, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Minneapolis. “The Wage and Hour Division will not tolerate willful employee intimidation or coercion and will make use of every tool we have available to ensure that a fair investigation is conducted and workers are protected.”

After the company learned of the worker’s contact with the Wage and Hour Division, one employee was fired and the second was not called back following a seasonal layoff. A complaint has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin against the company and its owner, Darrell Kasner, seeking lost wages for the two employees and an injunction against future retaliation.

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US Labor Department secures nearly $2M in back wages, benefits for nearly 150 workers at federally-funded solar energy project in Nevada

WHD News Release: [10/23/2014] 

LAS VEGAS – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $1,914,681.50 in back wages and fringe benefits for 147 workers at Proimtu Mmi-Nv LLC, a Henderson-based subcontractor providing construction services at the federally funded Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Tonopah. This project, which received a $737 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy, is a 110 MW solar energy power plant that will power up to 75,000 homes during peak electricity periods.

“The money we’ve recovered for these workers is not a windfall – it is their hard-earned pay that their employer was legally obligated to pay them but did not,” said Dr. David Weil, administrator of the department’s Wage and Hour Division. “Companies that benefit from federal funding must see to it that the money is used properly, and that their workers are compensated according to the law.”

An investigation found that Proimtu Mmi-Nv violated the prevailing wage and fringe benefits requirements of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts for the majority of their employees working at the Tonopah desert solar energy project. The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is subject to specific requirements under the DBRA since its funding includes hundreds of millions of dollars in federal loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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US Labor Department signs agreement with Alabama Labor Department to reduce misclassification of employees

WASHINGTON – Officials of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the Alabama Department of Labor today signed a memorandum of understanding to protect the rights of employees by preventing their misclassification as something other than employees, such as independent contractors. The memorandum of understanding represents a new effort on the part of the agencies to work together to protect the rights of employees and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice of misclassification. The Alabama Department of Labor is the latest state agency to partner with the U.S. Labor Department.

In Fiscal Year 2013, WHD investigations resulted in more than $83,051,159 in back wages for more than 108,050 workers in industries, such as janitorial, food, construction, day care, hospitality and garment. WHD regularly finds large concentrations of misclassified workers in low-wage industries.

“Misclassification deprives workers of rightfully-earned wages and undercuts law-abiding businesses,” said Dr. David Weil, administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “This memorandum of understanding sends a clear message that we are standing together with the state of Alabama to protect workers and responsible employers and ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

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$10.2M awarded to fund worker misclassification detection, enforcement activities in 19 state unemployment insurance programs

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today awarded $10,225,183 to 19 states to implement or improve worker misclassification detection and enforcement initiatives in unemployment insurance programs.

“This is one of many actions the department is taking to help level the playing field for employers while ensuring workers receive appropriate rights and protections,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Today’s federal grant awards will enhance states’ ability to detect incidents of worker misclassification and protect the integrity of state unemployment insurance trust funds.

 

2014 Worker Misclassification Grants

State Regular High Performance Bonus  Total
California $499,792 $499,792
Delaware $27,672 $27,672
Florida $31,792 $31,792
Hawaii $500,000 $500,000
Idaho $500,000 $500,000
Indiana $500,000 $500,000
Maryland $494,600 $400,099 $894,699
Massachusetts $499,800 $499,800
New Hampshire $330,468 $330,468
New Jersey $342,222 $496,399 $838,621
New Mexico $499,970 $499,970
New York $500,000 $500,000
Oregon $500,000 $500,000
South Dakota $500,000 $500,000
Tennessee $499,260 $499,260
Texas $500,000 $775,529 $1,275,529
Utah $500,000 $327,973 $827,973
Vermont $500,000 $500,000
Wisconsin $499,607 $499,607
Totals $8,225,183 $2,000,000 $10,225,183

 

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Labor Department announces grants to fight tax cheats

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor on Monday awarded $10.2 million to nearly two dozen states to beef up enforcement of a labor scheme that companies employ to evade their tax obligations.

The announcement of the first-of-their-kind grants comes one week after McClatchy’s five-part series that uncovered the federal government’s failure to stop companies that wrongly classify their workers as independent contractors instead of employees on federal contracts.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez said the grants, which range from $28,000 to $1.3 million, will help states identify and stop so-called worker misclassification and protect state unemployment insurance benefits.

“This is one of many actions the department is taking to help level the playing field for employers while ensuring workers receive appropriate rights and protections,” Perez said in a statement.

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(Related Link – McClatchy’s “Contract to Cheat”)