California rules on the new surge of independent contractor
May 2, 2018 9:12 AM   Subscribe

California's top court makes it more difficult for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. At the heart of the dispute was whether or not Dynamex Operations West Inc. delivery drivers were independent contractors or employees. This comes on the heels of a federal judge in Philadelphia ruling that Uber drivers are in fact independent contractors.

This could be a huge shakeup of the core business model of the ride-hailing and other such 'gig-economy' startups and services. They've argued in the past that it's a central piece of their model, allowing them to keep prices down and shift costs to the contractor. This however has lead to analysis that California alone is losing an estimated 7 billion in payroll taxes due to misclassification.

Previously, previously, and again, previouser.
posted by Carillon (10 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Those are similar to the criteria we used when hiring independent contractors at the University where I worked. Anything less just doesn't make sense to me. There will probably be some kind of backlash, but I can't help but see it as a win in the long run.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:17 AM on May 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Don't worry, I'm sure the Supreme Court will step in to restore the rule of rich people screwing over their employees law.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:18 AM on May 2, 2018 [13 favorites]

They've argued in the past that it's a central piece of their model, allowing them to keep prices down and shift costs to the contractor.

It's appalling that they can make this argument explicitly and not be immediately run out of town by mobs wielding pitchforks.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:20 AM on May 2, 2018 [38 favorites]

Good. While I feel for anyone whose livelihoods are upended by this change, I think this is the right thing to do. We need labor protections for all.
posted by greermahoney at 9:26 AM on May 2, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm still waiting to hear about my Postmates settlement claim. It was approved April 20th or 21st.

I found out it's mileage based so I'm expecting, oh, 12 cents or something ridiculous, and the settlement is tiered in some kind of structure beyond that with some primary plaintiffs getting much larger (and deserved) settlement payments, but they're the ones that brought and pursued the case in the first place.

I don't care if it's 12 cents. I was so happy when I heard about the lawsuit going through. These "No, really, nudge nudge, you're a contractor!" companies are stupid and fucking things up and avoiding labor law, taxes and disrupting more than just deliveries and taxi cabs.
posted by loquacious at 9:54 AM on May 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

Another thing I’ve noted is that places like Uber also try to make sure they aren’t responsible for their “contractors”. An Uber car drove into a crowd of protesters yesterday, but unlike nearly every truck on the road, there’s no “How’s my driving? Call X” bumper sticker or what have you.
posted by corb at 10:09 AM on May 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'd feel a hell of a lot better being a Prime Member if Amazon's "independent contractors" were actually considered employees, and they UNIONIZED; but I'm feeling very radical these days in my old age.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:35 AM on May 2, 2018 [12 favorites]

They've argued in the past that it's a central piece of their model, allowing them to keep prices down and shift costs to the contractor.

If only this argument had occurred to the Gottis.
posted by PMdixon at 2:22 PM on May 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I mean fuck Uber and the whole gig economy and all these companies who exploit the independent contractor laws, but I have to say as an actual independent contractor in California this doesn't really clear up the confusion, at least not in my industry.

The old CA rules were comically bad - if I remember right one of the criteria was "do you own your tools" (sure but what if I sometimes rent them for some gigs?) and who picks the time and date for the job (Uber drivers pick their hours, but if my client says "I need this done next Tuesday, are you available" I'm an employee?).

But really the question was always what counts as "employer direction" in the real world, so even though the other two points are now pretty crystal clear this one is still murky to me. I doubt most people work completely autonomously, alone. You could say Uber drivers pick their fares and their routes and are free of direct supervision, but generally I hire subcontractors because I unfortunately only have two hands, and some things I do on gigs I can't physically/safely do by myself. Obviously when you work on teams, someone at some point is going to direct someone to do something so we can get this shit done and go home at a reasonable hour.

It seems like all the larger more corporate clients in my area figured this was coming about 2-3 years ago (I'm guessing enforcement picked up and legal departments took notice). They have responded by putting all contractors, regardless of whether they actually own their own business or not, into the byzantine hell of corporate third-party payroll services which is the fucking worst and I want to die inside every time someone hands me a 25 page on-boarding packet of legalese for WeWillFuckUpYourCheck LLC for a one day gig. These usually include a time sheet that is a 100% total fabrication that someone already filled out for me (just sign here) because someone has to figure out how to translate my actual rate into an official payroll day for the state with official 15 minute breaks and everything (we don't take breaks).

But of course myself and my colleagues aren't allowed to unionize. According to the state, you see, we're all independent contractors in that regard.
posted by bradbane at 9:34 PM on May 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

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