NELP Denounces DOL’s Independent Contractor Proposed Rule That Would Expose More Workers to Wage Theft, Misclassification

The following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

“In solidarity with workers nationwide, the National Employment Law Project today denounced a proposed rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor that interprets the Fair Labor Standards Act in a way that would make it easier for corporations to cheat their workers and avoid minimum wage and overtime protections.

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“The DOL’s anti-worker proposal dramatically and improperly narrows coverage of workers under the FLSA. This proposal would give employers and corporations far more leeway in classifying workers as independent contractors, thereby allowing them to pay subminimum wages, hire child labor, and avoid overtime pay. This is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s relentless push to stack the deck against workers at every turn.

“Just like the recently invalidated joint employer interpretive regulation, this proposed rule ignores the clear language of the Fair Labor Standards Act and decades of court rulings, including by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Companies must be accountable for how they treat workers—no matter what the company calls the workers or how it classifies them. Companies that require their workers who are not running their own businesses to operate as ‘independent contractors’ in order to get a job should not get a free pass on illegally misclassifying workers, but the DOL has just offered them one.

“This action hurts the very workers who have been organizing on the frontlines for better wages and more protections, including construction laborers, janitors, home care workers, and those called essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, who clean homes, care for children and elderly individuals, and deliver groceries. These workers must not be left to earn subminimum wages and work more than 40 hours per week without getting any overtime pay.

“This action also hurts small businesses. Large corporations that misclassify their workers can underbid their competitors, creating a race to the bottom where jobs don’t pay and companies skirt payroll and unemployment insurance taxes that workers and public coffers rely on.

“Once again, the Trump Administration has offered a gift to corporations that can simply hand an independent contractor agreement to any worker seeking a job, and then walk away from minimum wage, overtime, and child labor violations, leaving smaller businesses on the hook, and too often leaving employees empty-handed with no protections.

“In today’s economy, where workers are fighting for increased pay and economic security, we join them in denouncing unjust rules that would lay the groundwork for sweatshop conditions. As ever, we will join workers of color in fighting this harmful proposal, which would impact them the most due to compounding systemic racism and segregation into the lowest-paid jobs. NELP calls on the Department of Labor to withdraw this misguided proposal that does the bidding of corporations, rather than striving to protect the workers who should be at the center of DOL’s mission and every action.”

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