Department of Labor to host second worker classification public forum

June 28, 2022

Mark Schremmer

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The U.S. Department of Labor scheduled two public forums to get feedback regarding worker classification definitions.

At the first forum on June 24, dozens of workers and organizational leaders asked the Labor Department to not make it more difficult for a person to be designated as an independent contractor. A second public forum is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, June 29. Those who would like to participate can register here.

The Department of Labor said it is using the public forums to help establish definitions of “employee” and “independent contractor” under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Although the issue isn’t exclusive to trucking, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association encourages its more than 150,000 members to participate.

“OOIDA recognizes worker classification is a critical issue for our members,” the Association wrote in a Call to Action email on June 20. “We hope the Department of Labor will pay attention to the specific factors affecting classification in trucking, and these forums will provide a valuable opportunity for truckers to share their expertise.”

First session

Friday’s public forum was labeled for “employers,” but it included comments from a variety of interested parties, including freelance writers, members of trucking organizations, and finance workers.

The overwhelming majority of commenters opposed such rules as the ABC Test, which would make it more difficult to be designated as an independent contractor.

Lisa Yakomin, a communications specialist for the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, said that the trucking industry relies on independent contractors to keep the supply chain moving efficiently.

“Independent drivers are the ones who step up to meet the demand,” she said. “Independent drivers are more flexible with their schedules. I urge you to immediately suspend your efforts.”

Pete Croatto, a freelance writer, touted the flexibility of being able to be his own boss and opposed the ABC Test.

Many from a variety of industries voiced concerns about losing flexibility and the inability to set their own rates if they were forced to become an employee.

Department of Labor efforts

The Department of Labor announced earlier this month that it plans to start a rulemaking regarding worker classification.

“The misclassification of employees as independent contractors is one of the most serious problems facing affected employees, employers and the U.S. economy,” the Department of Labor wrote in a recent blog. “Misclassified workers are denied basic workplace protections, including rights to minimum wage and overtime pay, making it harder for them to support themselves and their families. Lower pay caused by misclassification reduces workers’ purchasing power, which undermines the entire economy.

“Meanwhile, employers who comply with the law are at a competitive disadvantage when competing against employers who misclassify employees and pay them less than the law requires and fail to provide other employment-based worker protections.”

The Labor Department published a final rule regarding worker classification in January 2021, but the new administration decided to withdraw the rule in May 2021. This past March, a U.S. district court invalidated the decision to withdraw, meaning the January 2021 rule remains in effect.

“We need to hear from workers and employers as we develop our proposal,” the Department of Labor wrote.

The June 29 public forum is labeled as being for “workers.” LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.