California Steps Up Pressure on Independent Contractor Status with SB 495
California just passed legislation today which makes anyone other than a lawyer who “advises” employers to hire someone as an Independent Contractor jointly and severably liable for any mis-classification. And there’s more. Here’s the bill itself: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_0451-0500/sb_459_bill_20110912_enrolled.pdf
- Essentially, SB 495 makes it unlawful to willfully misclassify an individual as an independent contractor. If found guilty a company would have civil penalties of no less than $5,000 and no more than $10,000 per occurrence. If found guilty of repeated violations the result could be as much as $25,000 for each violation – willful is defined as with voluntary intent *( a very broad standard).
- The company must maintain records by completing a document developed by the EDD for each independent contractor retained.
- A notice indicating the individual will be engaged as an independent contractor
- What EDD factors were included to determine the individual is an employee or an independent contractor
- A statement explaining the impact the independent contractor status has on tax obligations and eligibility for labor and employment protections
- Notice to the individual that they can seek advice from EDD or the Labor Commissioner regarding whether they were properly classified
- Provides that any person who knowingly advises an employer to treat an individual as an independent contractor, to avoid employee status, shall be jointly and severably liable if the individual is found not to be an Independent Contractor. Of course, except for the lawyers.
No surprise, many entrepreneurs are livid about bills like this. As one entrepreneur stated:
“As a small business owner, if this passes I don’t see myself hiring any more contract programmers in state. It would be too risky. $25,000 fine and a required ‘Scarlet Letter’ on my web site? No thank you. It’s bills like this that force jobs to go overseas”
In contrast to the employer viewpoint another commentator on the bill said:
“I know an ‘employee’ working as an Independent Contractor, who stepped in a hole at San Quentin State Prison, where she worked as a registry nurse. By the time it was over, she lost half her leg, and ended up with no Worker’s Compensation Insurance, no Disability Insurance, no Unemployment Insurance, no nothing. Employers are totally bastardizing the definition of an Independent Contractor, and paying people who work only for them, 40 hours a week, under their supervision, as Independent Contractors. Great way for an employer to lure an “employee” to work for them, right up until either they’re injured on the job, are laid off, or of course when they get their 1099 at the end of the year, and find out they owe $38,000 of that $90,000 they earned in State and Federal Income Taxes. Great bill. About time. Pass it and enforce it!”
Bottom line is it is now the law. Here is the current info on it which will be updated in light of the new law. http://www.edd.ca.gov/payroll_taxes/independent_contractor_reporting.htm