Bill would define independent contractors, reform worker’s compensations system (AK)

21 FEBRUARY 2017 BY MILITARY NEWS

The state is trying to combat employee misclassification by tightening the reins on definitions of independent contractors versus employees.

Independent contractors work on a freelance basis for employers, but the relationship can flirt with the line between contractor and employee. Some companies intentionally call their employees independent contractors to avoid paying payroll taxes and worker’s compensation insurance premiums for them. Some employers also avoid the costs by reporting employees in lower-paying job categories.

House Bill 79, an omnibus worker’s compensation reform bill sponsored by Gov. Bill Walker, would outline an 11-point litmus test for independent contractors, defining when misclassification amounts to fraud. It also makes it the employee’s duty to report work and receipt of other wage-loss replacement benefits, according to Walker’s transmittal letter with the bill.

During an initial hearing on the bill Monday, Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Heidi Drygas and Division of Worker’s Compensation Director Marie Marx explained the details of the bills to the House Labor and Commerce Committee. The Worker’s Compensation Board, a citizen board advising the state on worker’s compensation issues, has been tackling the misclassification problem for some time, Marx said.

“We do not want to prevent true independent contractors from operating – we want them to operate,” she said. “We just want to make sure that those employers who are following the law operate on the same level playing field as those that do not.”

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Happy Holidays From The DOL: User-Friendly Webpage On Independent Contractors Misclassification Arrives

Monday, December 19, 2016
Greg Guidry

On December 19, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued what it describes as a “user-friendly webpage where workers, employers, and government agencies can find information and resources” about misclassification of workers as independent contractors.

In the announcement about its new educational and resource tool, the DOL states that the misclassification of employees as independent contractors is a “huge problem for workers, employers who play by the rules and our economy.” It also quotes two alleged victims of misclassification, a taxi driver who said he was underpaid and subjected to terrible working conditions akin to “modern day slavery,” and a masonry contractor who said that misclassification “makes for an unfair playing field” that “has to stop.”

In the cover page, the DOL states that it supports the use of legitimate independent contractors, but when employers deliberately misclassify employees as independent contractors in an attempt to cut costs, everyone loses. The DOL then states that “this new resource offers information about how misclassification affects pay, unemployment insurance, safety and health protections, retirement and health benefits, and taxes. It then pleads to the user: “Help us address this problem by learning more.”

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(USDOL Misclassification Resource Tool)

Wage Theft Hotline Hits Home With California Port Drivers

BY JOHNNY MAGDALENO
OCTOBER 31, 2016

Reyes Castellano has been driving cargo in and out of the Long Beach, California, port for 15 years. The 58-year-old has always had to put a big chunk of his paycheck toward covering repair and maintenance costs for his vehicle, but ever since K&R Transportation, the company he works for as an independent contractor, asked drivers to switch out their diesel trucks for ones powered by clean diesel and natural gas, his expenses have gone through the roof.

“Since I’ve had that truck I’ve spent about $30,000 in repairs,” says Reyes, who’s listed as the owner-operator of his vehicle. Last year, he says he made $74,000, but after deducting all the expenses he put into his work, he brought home $24,000. “Filter gets warped, turbo goes out, repaired the transmission a couple of times – they get so hot in there, like there’s no insulation or nothing.”

But what gets him the most is that he’ll spend anywhere from eight to 10 hours some days just waiting for companies at the port to ready their shipments. That’s time on the job that he’s not getting paid for, and that’s why he and a few dozen other drivers decided to go on a two-day strike at ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles on October 25.

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US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH NEBRASKA DEPARTMENT OF LABOR TO PROTECT WORKERS FROM MISCLASSIFICATION

WHD News Brief: 09/01/2016
Release Number: 16-1410-NAT

Participants: U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division
Nebraska Department of Labor

Partnership description: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the Nebraska Department of Labor signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding intended to protect employees’ rights by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other non-employee statuses. The two agencies will provide clear, accurate and easy-to-access outreach to employers, employees and other stakeholders; share resources; and enhance enforcement by conducting coordinated investigations and sharing information consistent with applicable law.

Background: The division is working with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and 33 other U.S. states to combat employee misclassification and to ensure that workers get the wages, benefits and protections to which they are entitled. Labeling employees as something they are not – such as independent contractors – can deny them basic rights such as minimum wage, overtime and other benefits. Misclassification also improperly lowers tax revenues to federal and state governments, and creates losses for state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds.

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USDOL Wage & Hour Division – Myths About Misclassification – Updated

Dr. David Weil
Administrator
Wage and Hour Division
9/7/2016

As you know, the misclassification of employees as independent contractors is a serious problem our country is facing, affecting workers, employers, and the entire economy.

Misclassified employees often are denied access to critical benefits and protections to which they are entitled, such as the minimum wage, overtime compensation, family and medical leave, unemployment insurance, and safe workplaces. Employee misclassification generates substantial losses to the federal, state, and local governments in the form of lower tax revenues, as well as to state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds. It hurts taxpayers and undermines the economy.

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division wants to clear up confusion about who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. Visit our Myths About Misclassification webpage and download our one-page flyer Get the Facts on Misclassification to view common myths and the truths that dispel each myth.

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(Fact Sheet)

Electionomics: Fixing The Sham Of Misclassified Workers

07/27/2016 01:07 pm ET
Julie Gutman Dickinson

What if millions of American workers were being denied health insurance, job security and the most basic legal protections, from overtime pay to workers compensation to the right to join a union? What if tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer revenues – money desperately needed to address everything from crumbling roads to education to health care – were never making it to local, state and federal treasuries? What if thousands of companies were violating the law with impunity?

That is exactly what is happening in the U.S. today, thanks to a rampant practice known as worker misclassification – illegally labeling workers as independent contractors when in fact they are employees under the law. In some cases it’s occurring in plain sight, in others it’s more hidden – but regardless of the circumstances, it is taking an enormous toll on the country.

In a 2015 report, EPI described the advantages to employers of misclassifying workers. “Employers who misclassify avoid paying payroll taxes and workers’ compensation insurance, are not responsible for providing health insurance, and are able to bypass requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.” If this weren’t enough, the report continues, “misclassified workers are ineligible for unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, minimum wage, and overtime, and are forced to pay the full FICA tax and purchase their own health insurance.”

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New York Establishes a Super IC Misclassification-Plus Task Force

July 21 2016
Richard J. Reibstein

Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 159 expanding the existing Joint Enforcement Task Force on Employee Misclassification into a Joint Enforcement Task Force on Worker Exploitation and Employee Misclassification. Those who follow IC misclassification developments in all 50 states, such as the publishers of this legal blog, were wondering why the annual Task Force Report issued by New York each February 1 for the past eight years had not yet been issued this year. Executive Order No. 159 tells us why – New York has now subsumed IC misclassification into a subset of “worker exploitation.”

Analysis of the New Executive Order

The Executive Order issued in 2007 establishing the Employee Misclassification Task Force required the Task Force to issue an annual report each February 1; this new Executive Order, however, has no such reporting requirement. Nonetheless, simultaneous with the issuance of Executive Order No. 159, the new and expanded Task Force issued its 2016 Report.

The Executive Order recites in its Preamble the reasons for the Governor’s action, and includes the statement that “an increasing number of employers in New York improperly classify individuals they hire as ‘independent contractors,’ even when those workers should be legally classified as ’employees’ . . . .” Neither the Executive Order nor the 2016 Task Force Report, though, provide any empirical data or basis on which the Executive Order based its conclusion that more and more employers in New York are either classifying workers as independent contractors or, more to the point, are misclassifying employees as ICs.

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US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR SIGNS AGREEMENT TO PROTECT WORKERS FROM MISCLASSIFICATION WITH SOUTH DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND REGULATION

WHD News Brief: 06/01/2016
Release Number: 16-1055-NAT
Participants: U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division
South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation

Partnership description: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding intended to protect employees’ rights by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other non-employee statuses. The two agencies will provide clear, accurate, and easy-to-access outreach to employers, employees, and other stakeholders, share resources, and enhance enforcement by conducting joint investigations and sharing information consistent with applicable law.

Quotes: “The Wage and Hour Division continues to attack this problem head-on through a combination of a robust education and outreach campaign, and nationwide, data-driven strategic enforcement across industries,” said David Weil, administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “Our goal is always to strive toward workplaces with decreased misclassification, increased compliance, and more workers receiving a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” David Weil, U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Administrator

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US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, VIRGINIA EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION SIGN AGREEMENT TO PROTECT WORKERS FROM MISCLASSIFICATION


WHD News Release: 06/16/2016
Release Number: 16-1214-NAT
Participants: U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division
Virginia Employment CommissionPartnership description: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the Virginia Employment Commission signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding intended to protect employees’ rights by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other non-employee statuses. The two agencies will provide clear, accurate and easy-to-access outreach to employers, employees and other stakeholders; share resources; and enhance enforcement by conducting coordinated investigations and sharing information consistent with applicable law.

Background: The division and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service are working with Virginia and 30 U.S. states to combat employee misclassification and to ensure that workers get the wages, benefits and protections to which they are entitled. Labeling employees as something they are not – such as independent contractors – can deny them basic rights such as minimum wage, overtime and other benefits. Misclassification also improperly lowers tax revenues to federal and state governments, as create losses for state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds.

More information on misclassification and the effort are available at http://www.dol.gov/misclassification/.

Colorado Loses Millions Each Year to Businesses Misclassifying Workers

By:ANNA BOIKO-WEYRAUCH

Colorado is losing more and more money each year to employers dodging mandatory unemployment insurance premium payments, according to a Rocky Mountain PBS News analysis. The estimated loss is about $23 million dollars a year since 2011.

Employers are required to pay the premiums on their employees. But, by labeling workers “independent contractors” – or unsupervised workers who make their own schedule and are not directed in their responsibilities – companies don’t have to pay.

The problem occurs when an employee is directed and supervised, but labeled an independent contractor anyway.

The construction industry had the highest unpaid insurance premiums and largest number of misclassified workers from 2011 to 2015, according to the analysis of state unemployment insurance audit data. Between 2011 and 2015, random audits of construction companies in Colorado found $1 million dollars in unpaid premiums and 3,433 misclassified workers.

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