Department of Labor to host worker classification public forums

June 21, 2022

Mark Schremmer

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The U.S. Department of Labor plans to establish definitions of “employee” and “independent contractor” under the Fair Labor Standards Act. To do so, the DOL wants feedback on this controversial issue from employers and workers.

Two public forums are planned for this month. The first is directed at employers, and the second seeks input from workers.

Both virtual forums are open to the public and free to attend.

  • Employer forum: 2:30-4:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday, June 24. Register here.
  • Worker forum: 5-7 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, June 29. Register here.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is encouraging its more than 150,000 members to participate in the forums and provide feedback on how the potential definitions could affect the trucking industry.

“OOIDA recognizes worker classification is a critical issue for our members,” the Association wrote in a Call to Action email on Monday, 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.”

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 remain committed to ensuring that employees are recognized correctly when they are, in fact, employees so that they receive the protections the FLSA provides,” the Labor Department wrote. “At the same time, we recognize the important role legitimate independent contractors play in our economy. We need to hear from workers and employers as we develop our proposal. Therefore, we will hold public forums in June to hear diverse perspectives from those who may be affected by employee or independent contractor classification.”

Controversial topic

The issue of worker classification has been a controversial one, particularly in the trucking industry.

The California Trucking Association believes the state’s Assembly Bill 5, which was passed into law, will end trucking’s owner-operator model in the state. The trucking group filed a lawsuit, prompting a temporary injunction that prevents the law from being enforced on motor carriers. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to soon decide whether or not to hear the California Trucking Association’s case. LL

PrePass

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.