DOL Withdraws Final Rule on Independent Contractor Status under FLSA

On May 5, 2021, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced a new final rule withdrawing the “Independent Contractor Status Under the Fair Labor Standards Act” final rule (Independent Contractor Rule) that had been published on January 7, 2021, to take effect on March 8, 2021. Of note, the DOL is not issuing new federal guidance on independent contractor status with this new rule. The DOL indicated that the January 2021 rule “is inconsistent with the FLSA’s text and purpose, and would have a confusing and disruptive effect on workers and businesses alike. . . .” The new Rule will be published on May 6, 2021.

Employers should keep in mind that many states, including Wisconsin, have adopted their own tests for independent contractor status. These state laws can vary widely from state-to-state, and even within a state, depending upon the issue being addressed (i.e., unemployment eligibility, wage and hour, tax liability). Lake Effect continues to monitor federal and state laws and guidance relating to independent contractor status, and we will keep you apprised of developments in this area.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about independent contractors, FLSA, and labor laws. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

DOL clarifies FLSA’s “amusement or recreational establishment” exemption

On January 15, 2021, the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the US Department of Labor issued opinion letter FLSA2021-3. The letter explores the scope of Section 13 (a)(3) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which creates an exemption from the minimum wage and overtime provisions for “an employee employed by an establishment which is an amusement or recreational establishment, organized camp, or religious or non-profit educational conference center.” In addition to meeting this definition, an entity must satisfy either a “calendar test” or a “receipts test,” designed to limit the exemption to employees of truly seasonal operations.

Examining three different entities, the WHD concluded as follows:

  • In order to be an “establishment” under Section 13 (a)(3) of the FLSA, an entity must have a distinct physical location for its recreational operations. An entity that organizes and leads nature walks, hikes, daytrips, and overnight camping trips for children does not meet this definition. The entity has a recreational character and purpose. However, it maintains an office solely for administrative purposes; its trips do not meet, leave from, or return to that office. Therefore, its recreational operations do not have a “distinct physical location” over which it exerts control as required to satisfy the “establishment” exemption.
  • A non-profit religious ministry that runs a year-round camp/ retreat center and uses an accrual method of accounting cannot satisfy the “receipts” test under Section 13 (a)(3) of the FLSA. To qualify for the exemption, an entity must show that during the preceding calendar year, its average receipts for any six months of the year were not more than 33 ⅓ percent of its average receipts for the other six months of that year (of note, the months need not be consecutive). For purposes of the FLSA exemption, “receipts” means money actually received and does not incorporate accrual accounting principles. Furthermore, “receipts” under Section 13 (a)(3) refers to money received in exchange for goods or services and does not include charitable donations.
  • An entity that plans and produces thousands of events at various locations each year for companies, non-profits, and other organizations is not an “establishment” under Section (a)(3) of the FLSA. While it maintains a warehouse and administrative offices, it does not exert control, even for a limited period, over fixed locations that have amusement or recreational character. It simply helps produce events on premises that are held and controlled by its clients.

While WHD opinion letters can provide valuable guidance to covered employers, they are based upon the facts of the specific case presented. Therefore, the scope of their legal impact is often uncertain. Employers whose seasonal employees may qualify for the “amusement or recreational establishment” exemption should work closely with legal counsel to determine whether the exemption is likely to apply.
We continue to closely monitor developments in this area and will provide you with important updates.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about federal and state issues affecting employers. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

DOL Issues Final Rule on Independent Contractor Status under FLSA

***Update, January 27, 2021***

UPDATED BY EXECUTIVE ORDER – CLICK HERE FOR UPDATED INFORMATION

****

On January 6, 2021, the US Department of Labor announced a final rule establishing the test for whether a worker will be classified as an independent contractor or an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The final rule adopts the “economic reality” test, which was set forth in the DOL’s proposed rule published in September 2020. Under that test, the two core factors are the nature and degree of control over the work and the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss. For a full discussion of that test, these key factors, and other relevant considerations, please review Lake Effect's September 22, 2020 blog on the DOL’s proposed rule. The final rule also reiterates that the actual practice of the employer and the worker will govern the inquiry, not contractual language or theoretical possibilities.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on January 7, 2021 and take effect on March 8, 2021.

Keep in mind that DOL’s final rule is unlikely to fully resolve this challenging issue for most employers. Many states have adopted their own tests for independent contractor status, and these can vary widely from state-to-state, and even within a state, depending upon the issue being addressed (i.e., unemployment eligibility, wage and hour, tax liability). Lake Effect continues to monitor federal and state laws and guidance relating to independent contractor status, and we will keep you apprised of developments in this area.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about independent contractors, FLSA, and labor laws. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Lake Effect HR & Law is in business to maximize each client’s workplace potential with a commitment to kindness, true partnership, and exceptional service.

DOL Issues Timely Wage and Hour Rule and Guidance

***Update, January 27, 2021***

UPDATED BY EXECUTIVE ORDER – CLICK HERE FOR UPDATED INFORMATION

****

Over the last few weeks, the Department of Labor (DOL) has been busy ticking items off its to-do list. We have seen action on everything from tip pooling to employee notices to travel time.

Tip Pooling and Tip Credits
In October, 2019, Lake Effect blogged on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations on tip pooling, tip credit, and payments to tipped employees. The DOL published the Final Rule on December 22, 2020, implementing most of the changes to tip pooling and tip payments that were proposed in 2019. See also a helpful summary and FAQ provided by the DOL. The Final Rule is effective March 1, 2021.

This new rule will be helpful for restaurant, bar, and hospitality employers making plans to expand or resume operations in the coming months. Many hospitality employers have implemented – or may now consider implementing – tip pools to supplement employee compensation, improve morale, and incentivize all workers to maximize performance. In short, tip pooling can be a useful tool to enhance employee recruitment and retention.

The new tip credit and tip pooling regulations include the following:

  • No tips for managers, supervisors, or employers: The regulations expressly prohibit employers from keeping employees’ tips and likewise prohibit managers and supervisors from sharing any employee tips, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit and regardless of the type of tip pool implemented. Employers who retain pooled tips or share them with managers or supervisors will be subject to civil penalties under the new regulations.
    • Relying on the FLSA duties test, a manager or supervisor is defined as any employee (1) whose primary duty is managing the enterprise or a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise; (2) who customarily and regularly directs the work of at least two or more other full-time employees or their equivalent; and (3) who has the authority to hire or fire other employees, or whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring or firing are given particular weight.” This also includes any workers “who own at least a bona fide 20 percent equity interest in the enterprise in which they are employed and who are actively engaged in its management.”
  • No 80/20 rule for tip credits: The regulations remove the long-standing 80/20 rule that required employers who take a tip credit (see our prior blog for an overview of tip credits) to carefully track the amount and timing of non-tipped work that employees perform. Under the new regulations, employers may take the tip credit regardless of the amount of non-tipped work an employee is performing provided the normally non-tipped work is performed “contemporaneously with” or “for a reasonable time immediately before or after” their normally tipped work duties.
  • Employers who take a tip credit are limited to a traditional tip pool: Employers who take a tip credit may create only a “traditional tip pool,” which is limited to employees who “customarily and regularly” receive tips.
  • Employers who do not take a tip credit have two tip pool options: Employers who do not take a tip credit now have two options for tip pooling. Employers may create a “traditional tip pool” and/or a “nontraditional tip pool,” which includes employees who do not regularly receive tips, such as cooks and dishwashers.
  • Record-keeping of tip credit and tip pool: Employers who take a tip credit or create tip pools must identify on their payroll records each employee who receives tips and maintain records of the weekly or monthly amount of tips received by employees, as reported by the employee to the employer. Employers can rely on employees’ information tracked on IRS Form 4070.
  • Timing of payment of tip pool tips: Employers must pay their employees the pooled tips no later than the date on which regular wages are paid to employees and, for credit card based tips, “as soon as practicable after the regular payday.” This further supports the requirement that employers must not retain tips.

Electronic Posting of Required Labor Law Posters
Acknowledging that telework will likely continue for the foreseeable future in many workplaces, the DOL provided new guidance regarding labor law posters. In a field assistance bulletin issued on December 29, 2020, the DOL confirmed that employers can satisfy applicable employee notice obligations by providing required labor law postings to employees on the internet or an intranet. Employers also must display hard copies of the posters in the actual workplace for applicants and employees who are unable to telework.

Compensation for Personal Activity Travel Time
Again acknowledging the continuation of telework, the DOL issued a wage and hour opinion letter on December 31, 2020 addressing the issue of travel time to/from work and home when an employee works part of the day remotely and part of the day in the worksite, and engages in personal activities during their travel time. The DOL reiterated that a non-exempt employee does not need to be paid for time the employee is off duty and is not working, nor for commuting time. The DOL also reinforced that the continuous workday doctrine would not apply to the fact patterns presented by the employer because, during the travel time for personal activities, the employee was clearly off duty, could use their time for their own purposes, and could choose when they would resume work at home or at the worksite. Likewise, the employee’s commuting time to and from work, during which time the employee performed no work duties, was not compensable commuting time.

~~~~
For additional information and discussion of DOL rule making, rules, and guidance, please see Lake Effect’s prior blogs on wage and hour issues. We will continue to closely monitor all developments in this area and provide you with important updates.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about federal and state issues affecting employers. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Lake Effect HR & Law is in business to maximize each client’s workplace potential with a commitment to kindness, true partnership, and exceptional service.

DOL Announces Proposed Rule on Independent Contractor Status under the FLSA

On September 22, 2020, the US Department of Labor proposed a new rule to clarify whether a worker will be classified as an independent contractor or an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The proposed rule will be available for review and public comments for 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

The proposed rule adopts an “economic reality” test to determine a worker’s status. That test focuses on whether a worker is economically dependent upon an employer for work or is truly in business for themselves . Economic dependence is the ultimate inquiry. In applying this test, the two most important factors are:

  • Who exercises substantial control over key aspects of work performance? Where the worker sets their own schedule, selects projects, and retains the ability to work for an employer’s competitors, this factor will weigh in favor of independent contractor status. In contrast, where the employer sets the schedule, controls the workload, and requires the worker to perform work exclusively for that employer, this factor will weigh in favor of employee status.
  • Does the worker have an opportunity for profit or loss (i.e. an ability to affect their earnings by the exercise of their own management and initiative)? If the worker can earn more or lose profits based upon their own managerial skills or business acumen, for example by hiring helpers or choosing particular equipment or materials, this factor will weigh in favor of independent contract status. If the worker is unable to affect their earnings or is only able to do so by working more hours or working more efficiently, this factor will weigh in favor of employee status.

Other factors to be considered in assessing independent contractor vs. employee status under the FLSA include the amount of skill required for the work, the permanence of the working relationship between the parties, and whether the work performed by the individual is a component of the employer’s integrated production process for a good or service.

The DOL’s proposed rule emphasizes that the parties’ actual practice is key to the assessment of independent contractor status. What the parties state in a contract or what may be theoretically possible under a work arrangement is of little relevance if it differs from the reality of their working relationship.

Employers should keep in mind that many states have adopted their own tests for independent contractor status under their respective state wage and hour laws; these tests can differ from state-to-state. The tests may also vary based upon the state law issue being addressed, i.e. unemployment compensation eligibility, workers’ compensation coverage, employment tax liability, etc.

The issue of independent contractor versus employee status continues to challenge employers across all sectors throughout the U.S. We will continue to closely monitor the DOL’s proposed rule and other state-based developments in this area. In the meantime, it might be a good time to review your independent contractor agreements and work relationships within your organization. Your partners at Lake Effect HR & Law can help you ensure compliance while retaining the flexible and dynamic workforce that your organization needs. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Engaging & Retaining Employees, While Navigating FFCRA & FLSA

Five months after quickly transitioning to a “temporary” virtual workplace, many employees are still working at home. They are also managing caregiving and work responsibilities, as well as their own physical and emotional wellbeing. Employers are now struggling with how to adapt short-term fixes into sustainable, longer- term solutions that will engage and retain a virtual workforce.

In the face of this challenge, consider incorporating the following practices into your workplace culture to support your employees’ wellbeing and fulfill your organization’s mission and strategic initiatives.

  • Maintain flexible scheduling. As home and work priorities shift, employees may be more productive and focused during non-traditional business hours or blocks of time during the day, including evenings and weekends. When team members work different hours, encourage them to communicate and be transparent about their schedules. This will promote a productive workflow and strengthen working relationships.
  • Continue virtual work. If your team has proven they can be successful working virtually, continue to provide this flexibility. This may give those employees who need or want to work from another location an opportunity to spend the summer at their cabin, rent a VRBO, or stay with out-of-town family or friends for an extended time.
  • Welcome the interruptions. Intentionally or inadvertently, we have met (or heard in the background) our coworkers’ furry friends, kids, family, and roommates. We’ve had an opportunity to visit our coworkers’ homes through the lens of our computer cameras during video conferences. Rather than begrudging the interruption, welcome this opportunity to get to know one other as individuals, not just coworkers.
  • Encourage employees to collaborate on pod learning and/or caregiving responsibilities. As many school districts have decided on some version of virtual learning, employees may want the opportunity to work together to create pod learning or shared childcare. Connecting employees in this manner may provide them an opportunity to work alternate days or times. In addition, consider converting unused conference rooms to temporary classrooms or playrooms, just be sure to check with your worker’s compensation carrier.
  • Promote wellness benefits and other wellbeing resources. Work closely with your benefits broker, understand your current organization’s wellness benefits, and educate your employees on these offerings. During your annual renewal, consider additional, lower cost, but high health reward benefits to better support the wellness needs of your staff. These benefits may include an employee assistance plan (EAP) or subscription services to wellness apps, online yoga classes, coffee clubs, or other services that support wellness activities for your entire employee population, even those who do not participate in your health, dental, and vision plans. Focus as well on virtual activities your employees can engage in together, such as company-wide or departmental fitness or step per day goals.
  • Encourage use of paid time off. We might not be planning our once-in-a-lifetime vacation this year, but there are many adventures awaiting us locally. Remind employees of their PTO balance and encourage them to take time to recharge, this may include helping them efficiently tackle their work tasks so they can enjoy the time away. Add some fun and promote their time away by sharing pictures of their adventures on an internal shared site.
  • Support your wellness/social committee. A wellness committee is usually made up of a group of employees that are passionate about wellness and engaging their coworkers in some office fun. This group may be able to plan virtual celebrations, arrange for group wellness activities, or delivery company branded gifts to employees’ homes, like customized face masks and small hand sanitizers! Include gift certificates to encourage employees to support local restaurants and shops.
  • Review processes and procedures. Update processes and procedures to be more efficient and relevant in your current work environment. Review expense reimbursement procedures to determine if you should start reimbursing for employees’ virtual expenses, such as cell phone, internet, hotspot, or office supplies/equipment.
  • Evaluate leaders’ job duties and responsibilities. In addition to leading people, leaders have their own job responsibilities and deadlines to meet. Provide leaders more time to lead during these uncertain times by transferring job duties that may provide others a growth opportunity. You may find that after updating processes and procedures to be more efficient, employees may have more capacity and would welcome to learn a new skill.
  • Continue coaching and development efforts. Employees want and need frequent feedback and recognition, especially during times of change and uncertainty. Consider adapting your process to better suit your current workplace situation to ensure supervisors are frequently communicating with direct reports. Encourage managers to check in with their teams to find out how they are doing, if they need additional resources, and to remove any roadblocks.
  • Keep calm and communicate. The COVID-storm has not passed yet, keep communicating frequently with your employees. Now, more than ever, employees want to know how COVID-related changes are impacting the organization and themselves. Discuss with employees the direction of the organization, how they can support the organization’s initiatives, and when they achieve their goals.
  • Be true to your organization’s mission. When considering how to adapt your workplace, remember your guiding star – your organization’s mission, vision, values, and strategic plan.

If you have questions about managing and engaging a virtual workforce, leave requests, or other FFCRA or FLSA related questions, the HR and legal team at Lake Effect can help.

We are closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace. Keep watching for blogs and emails from your Lake Effect team for important legal updates and HR best practices. The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to help. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Lake Effect HR & Law, LLC
(844) 333-5253 (LAKE)
info@le-hrlaw.com

LakeEffectWhite-footer2

© 2020 Lake Effect HR & Law, LLC