Employee or Independent Contractor?

How AB5 Has Changed The Employment Landscape

From Forbes, Michael Studenka discusses how AB5 has changed the employment landscape, offers terrific recommendations on next steps, and reminds employers that hope is not a strategy. Michael writes:

The Costs Of Misclassification Are Expensive, And Hope Is Not A Strategy

Many business owners I speak to understand AB5 has caused the ground to shift beneath their feet and recognize the resulting risks of misclassifying workers. Despite these risks, companies often balk at taking the necessary steps to evaluate their classifications and mitigate the risk of an adverse classification finding.

The most common reason I hear from resistant companies is the worker does not want to be reclassified as an employee and the company trusts the worker (“I’ve worked with her for years; she won’t sue me because she wants to be a contractor”). I get it. Making the change from contractor to employee results in less flexibility and greater administrative burden for everyone involved. While I’m sympathetic, the government is not. Reluctance to change while acknowledging the associated risks amounts to a strategy based on hope. As we say in the Marine Corps, however, “hope is not a strategy.”

Aside from the sometimes foolhardy belief that a misclassified worker can be trusted to not file suit after a business breakup (when the deposits stop and mortgage bill comes due, guess who’s a prime target), companies often fail to recognize the numerous ways in which their classification decisions can be challenged even when they are in agreement with their (misclassified) contractors. Here are just three examples of how your classifications can be scrutinized despite the lack of a challenge by the worker:

– EDD Audits: During the course of the last several years, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) has increased the number of verification (random) audits it performs in search of additional tax revenue. One reason government agencies prefer hiring entities classify workers as employees rather than independent contractors is it’s a more efficient tax collection method; employers collect employees’ taxes on the government’s behalf, which increases collection rates and reduces government collection costs. The consequences of misclassification include pricey fines, penalties, and interest.

– Unemployment Insurance, Workers’ Compensation, and Disability Claims: In addition to verification audits, the EDD performs request (targeted) audits. Targeted audits may result when a contractor files an unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, or disability claim because independent contractors are ineligible for such benefits. Request audits, like verification audits, can result in costly fines, penalties, and interest if the EDD concludes you have misclassified your workers. Even so, that may not be the worst of it: the EDD often shares its findings with the Internal Revenue Service.

Read the full story at How AB5 Has Changed The Employment Landscape

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