Imagine working side-by-side with others who have all the benefits of being an employee of a company including paid sick days, a minimum wage, workers’ comp, unemployment insurance and more. Now imagine you are doing similar work without any of those protections because your boss decided to call you an “independent contractor” instead of an employee simply because he wants to cut corners on costs.
It’s called misclassification, and it’s a growing and devastating problem for workers, businesses that do the right thing and our economy as a whole.
The California labor movement joined Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher today to tackle this problem head on, codifying into state law a recent California Supreme Court decision that provides a simple test employers must meet to classify workers as independent contractors. The test, a version of which exists in other states, removes uncertainty and ensures workers who are doing the job of an employee have all the protections and rights that should be afforded to them.
The bill would strengthen rules that make it harder for employers to classify workers as contractors and limit their rights under state labor laws.
“Individuals are not able to make it on three side hustles. That shouldn’t be the norm. That shouldn’t be accepted,” Gonzalez Fletcher said. She said the court’s decision is essential for maintaining solid employment for workers in a changing economy and for combating the income inequality that has helped drive California’s poverty rate to one of the highest in the nation.
“What we permit, what we don’t permit, what has worked for generations and built the middle class of California, needs to be largely intact,” she said.
The bill is designed to protect those workers most vulnerable to exploitation, said the California Labor Federation’s Caitlin Vega.
But most workers who are being misclassified as independent contractors, she said, work in low-wage jobs, performing manual labor, and many of them are immigrants. She said labor groups would not compromise on the fundamental purpose of the court decision to extend employment rights to these workers who are vulnerable to exploitation.
“We’re all clear this is the law,” Vega said.
And as the article points out, it’s not just workers who benefit from this new bill, it’s employers who play by the rules as nail salon owner Nina Tran points out.
When Tran opened her nail salon, Agape, three years ago, it was important to her to use non-toxic products and to hire the technicians as employees, with hourly wages and breaks. Though she charges more for manicures and pedicures as a result, Tran said her approach has earned the loyalty of both her workers and consumers who like what the company stands for.
“Knowing that they’re contributing to a business that’s trying to do good for its employees and its community, they support us,” said Tran, who has lobbied at the Capitol to improve nail salon conditions. “We’re creating something of value.”
The bill has broad support already, including labor, workers’ rights groups and organizations that promote healthy workplaces.