AICC belongs to the Small Business Legislative Council (SBLC), which actively monitors activity in all of our government branches—legislative, executive, and judiciary. It’s in the executive branch, controlled by the Biden administration, that the Department of Labor (DOL) is proposing new rules for the classification of independent contractors for the purposes of federal wage and hour laws. The DOL published these new rules on October 13, with a public comment period of 45 days.
To understand the DOL’s new proposed rules, it is important to understand the history of the rules over the past couple of years. Before 2021, the DOL used what is known as the economic realities test to determine if a worker can qualify as an independent contractor. The economic realities test looked at five factors:
The nature and degree of the worker’s control over the work,
The worker’s opportunity for profit or loss,
The amount of skill required for the work,
The degree of permanence of the working relationship, and
Whether the work is part of an integrated unit of the business.
In the waning days of the Trump administration, the DOL issued a new final rule intended to make it easier for businesses to satisfy the economic realities test and classify workers as contractors. Under the Trump-era independent contractor rule, the DOL focused primarily on the first two factors of the economic realities test. Under that rule, if a worker qualified as an independent contractor when looking at the factors of control and opportunity for profit and loss, the inquiry would stop there, and the independent contractor classification would be permissible. Only if there was uncertainty or ambiguity would consideration be given to the third, fourth, and fifth factors noted earlier. The rule also allowed businesses to offer certain benefits to independent contractors without undermining their classification.
The new proposed rules would reinstate the economic realities test with each factor receiving equal weight and with the worker’s and employer’s investments into their respective businesses being broken out as its own factor in the test. The proposed rules also provide additional details on how businesses should assess the issue of control and determine whether the work is integral to employers’ business.
How this affects you as an AICC member depends on whether you utilize independent contractors in your operation. If you use independent sales reps, for example, the independent contractor rules may apply to them. There may be other situations as well, so consult with your accountants and attorneys for the best guidance. Once these new rules are finalized, AICC will supply all members with a summary of their requirements.
Eric Elgin is owner of Oklahoma Interpak and Chair of AICC’s Government Affairs subcommittee. He can be reached at 918-687-1681 or firstname.lastname@example.org.