How to navigate the increasingly dangerous waters of worker classification

Just as the stakes are getting higher, worker classification is getting trickier. The rise of the gig economy has led to an exponential increase in the number of independent contractors it brings into the labor pool each day. Lawmakers are taking note,  and the government ain’t playin’. Tax and employment law violations can lead to severe consequences. Employers shouldn’t play either. Here are some ways to tell the difference between an employee and an independent contractor and some questions worth asking before bringing an independent contractor on board.

 

How to tell independent contractors and employees apart

This is a meaty subject with a mountain of government legalese to back it up. Thankfully, employers can look at some of the main factors the government considers to sort out any areas of confusion, including the following:

  • The employer’s degree of control over the worker
  • The worker’s opportunity for profit or loss
  • The worker’s investment in facilities
  • How long-term the relationship is
  • The worker’s skill set

If you’re confused by gray areas, of which there are plenty, Upwork provides a simple IC v. employee compare-and-contrast chart that would make your high school English teacher proud. We also dive deeper and provide a handy cheat sheet and additional resources on the subject here.

But if you’re still uncertain, engaging a contractor management firm is your safest bet.

 

Questions to ask before hiring an independent contractor

1.  Am I confident I could make a strong case for the classification we chose?

If there is any question whether you’re on solid ground with your decision, you’re probably on very un-solid ground. It’s worth engaging support to make sure you get it right before it hits the courtroom.

 

2. What are the consequences if I get it wrong? 

Uber has provided über lessons on worker classification woes. It’s clear that the consequences can be steep and that the DOL is ready to drop the hammer on misclassification.

 

3. Do I need professional support and a built-in insurance plan to make sure I get it right? 

Navigating the dangerous waters and staying compliant is harder and more important than ever. Worker classification is one of those areas in which you can’t afford to take risks. Partners who make your life easier are worth the investment. A payroll service may be right for those who don’t have the bandwidth or interest in digging into the legalese. At PayReel, we manage payroll taxes and, as the employer of record, we even take on all risk associated with a variable workforce. Think you might benefit from hiring a payroll service? Here’s a handy guide to find out more.

 

About PayReel

When it comes to event payroll, payroll taxes, and so much more, PayReel makes your life easier. Producing multimedia content and executing live events is chaotic. At PayReel, we make sure our clients are able to hire who they want, when they want and that everyone is paid properly. Leave all payroll services and details up to the PayReel team so you can focus on pulling off a flawless production. Contact us anytime at 303-526-4900 or by emailing us here.

Relax. We got it.

 

The gig economy: How to pay contractors and navigate benefits

The gig economy offers benefits to workers and companies alike. While those benefits do include flexibility for workers and lower costs to employers, they don’t cover things we’ve grown used to such as built-in 401K plans, health insurance options, and worker’s compensation. For many independent contractors, that’s a problem. And as the gig economy’s slice of the economic pie grows, so does the problem. Currently, there is no roadmap telling you how to pay contractors fairly while keeping costs down. The good news is that we at PayReel have been on this road long enough to learn how to pay contractors legally and ethically.

 

Start with worker classification

First things first: classify workers correctly from the outset. A worker’s classification (whether they’re an employee or an independent contractor) guides what benefits they’re entitled to by law. The rise of the gig economy has brought with it the rise of confusion over who is an employee and who is a contractor. Wherever gray areas and money meet, you will find lawsuits. True to form, legal disputes over worker classification have plagued everyone from Uber to FedEx. Following the rules and classifying correctly from the beginning saves time and potential legal troubles.

 

Stay aware of potential legal changes

From workers to legislators, people are thinking about how to manage the evolving landscape. Some envision an entirely new system with changing guidelines that suit changing times. Such a system might include “portable benefits” that travel with workers from company to company.

According to this article from the Pew Charitable Trusts, one bill proposes to:

“require people or companies that find work for and transfer payments to independent contractors — Uber, say, or a middleman who works with farm laborers — to contribute to a pool of money managed by an independent nonprofit. The broker might do that by charging consumers extra or by taking the money out of workers’ pay.

Contributions would be made at least monthly and would have to amount to either $6 per hour worked or 25 percent of the sum charged to the consumer, whichever is smaller. The money could be spent on paid time off, health insurance or other qualified benefits.”

We can only guess how things will change, but we do expect them to change. It behooves company leaders to stay in tune with these kinds of conversations and legal considerations.

 

Consider more than the bottom line

Some companies aren’t waiting for a legal mandate to make changes. Instead, they are voluntarily providing benefits beyond their legal requirements. Care.com, for example, adds a small fee to each transaction, which converts to “benefits bucks” that service providers may use for expenses such as transportation. This kind of perk goes beyond the money in a worker’s pocket. Workers who feel valued are more loyal and do better work.  

 

Protect yourself

If you can’t (or just don’t want to) keep up with the rules and developments surrounding the on-demand economy, PayReel can keep up for you. Check out this handy guide to see if you might benefit from hiring a payroll services company. Not only does our team manage worker classification, payroll, and payroll taxes; as the employer of record we even take on all risk associated with a variable workforce. Going above and beyond in the ethics department isn’t just a warm and fuzzy notion. It’s a sound business decision, too.

 

About PayReel

When it comes to payroll taxes and so much more, PayReel makes your life easier. Producing multimedia content and executing live events is chaotic. At PayReel, we make sure our clients are able to hire who they want, when they want and that everyone is paid properly. Leave all payroll services and details up to the PayReel team so you can focus on pulling off a flawless production. Contact us anytime at 303-526-4900 or by emailing us here.

Relax. We got it.

 

What do Trump’s first 100 days mean for the on-demand economy?

 

If anything’s certain, it’s that very little is certain when it comes to the rumors and grand plans that often surround any President’s first 100 days in office.

Worker classification was a major focus during President Obama’s administration, which resulted in a rash of highly-publicized lawsuits and debates across the U.S. just as the the on-demand economy was coming of age.

The Trump administration’s focus on that same unique issue might actually play out favorably this time around for employers who rely on independent contractors. But before you throw all your paperwork out the window—that doesn’t mean classification is going out the window, too. In fact, some states and localities might even tighten restrictions and increase punishments for misclassification in response to relaxed federal law.

In short, things are as up in the air as ever when it comes to federal government trying to keep up with rapid developments in the on-demand economy.

Here’s what to do while you wait to see what President Trump’s first 100 days mean for the on-demand economy.

 

Be vigilant when it comes to compliance

Federal, state, and local regulations already change regularly; who knows how things could fluctuate as the government tries to get a grasp on how benefits, taxes, and everything else could and should shift as workforces get more and more nontraditional.

 

Don’t slack on classification

The process of classification might eventually get easier, but it’s not likely to go away. If the current situation is any indication, it could even get a bit hairier for some states and localities as they react to uncertain or lax laws at the federal level.

 

The bottom line:

If you can’t (or just don’t want to) keep up with the rules and developments surrounding the on-demand economy—PayReel can keep up for you. Not only does our team manage worker classification, payroll, and payroll taxes; as the employer of record we even take on all risk associated with a variable workforce.

 


 

About PayReel

Producing multimedia content and executing live events is chaotic. At PayReel, we make sure our clients are able to hire who they want, when they want and that everyone is paid properly. Leave all payroll services and details up to the PayReel team so you can focus on pulling off a flawless production. Contact us anytime at 303-526-4900 or by emailing us here.

Relax. We got it.

 

DOL drops the hammer on worker classification

 

If you’ve been paying attention to labor law (or more specifically worker classification) in the news or the grumbles of your last Uber driver, you may know that the on-demand driver provider is facing a three-headed monster. It’s not stoplights, stop signs, and lane changes—instead, it’s a mess of more than 70 federal lawsuits against Uber from drivers, passengers, and even the government.

What brought it all on? To start, Uber has classified their drivers (both full and part time) as contractors, while drivers feel that they’re treated as employees. As things stand today, those drivers are correct—they are employees. That decision has cost Uber $100 million in a settlement in both California and Massachusetts. More settlements and lawsuits are still pending.

The difference between W-2 employees and 1099 independent contractors occupies a grey area. This grey area has become the target of a Department of Labor crackdown. The DOL is dropping the hammer and strengthening their enforcement of worker classification. If they’re not careful, companies could face lawsuits from many angles. If Uber is any indication, that’s not likely to turn out very well.

 

The bottom line

At PayReel, compliance comes first. We don’t just classify your employees properly, we even pay them properly so that you can hire who you want exactly when you want them. If grey areas aren’t your thing and if the term “lawsuit” makes your heart skip a beat—relax, we got it. Contact us around the clock at 303-526-4900 or email us here.

 


 
Nat's notes

About the author

PayReel Customer Experience Manager Natalie “The Go Getter” McGinnis recapped 2016’s biggest news in freelancer management to help you prepare for 2017. Nat’s experience in recruitment and customer service set her up for success in providing laser-focused attention and assistance to the PayReel employees and clients who need it the most. Click here to read more of Nat’s Notes and meet the rest of the PayReel team by clicking here!

 

Overtime exemptions are on hold. How will it affect you?

 

A ruling slated to put an additional $1.2 billion per year in workers’ pockets is now on ice. Here is the state of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) and what it means for your business.

 

What exactly is  the FSLA?

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) FSLA includes new overtime exemptions. If and when it goes into effect, the law will nearly double the salary threshold (from $455/week to $913), thereby making up to 4.2 million more people non-exempt and eligible to be paid overtime.

On November 22, 2016, a week before the ruling was to take effect, a judge in Texas won a preliminary injunction against it. While the twenty other states that fought to end the act breathed a sigh of relief, the DOL cried foul and filed an appeal.

As of this posting, the battle continues.

 

What do stalled overtime exemptions mean for businesses?

Like all things involving government and money, it’s complicated. And it’s likely to cause headaches for anyone digging in to the nitty gritty details.

With the issue in limbo at a federal level, states are trying to figure this thing out on their own—which makes room for a lot of gray areas. Gray areas are where lawsuits live. There are different labor laws at the federal and state levels. In most legal situations, federal trumps state. It’s different with labor laws, though, because states are only required to use federal guidelines as a baseline.

Another place with plenty of room for confusion is worker classification, which we cover in an ongoing blog series here. Often, workers fall into both exempt and non-exempt classification categories, which affects eligibility for a slew of benefits, including overtime. In these cases, classification depends on a weighted scale of the employees’ duties. It’s shockingly easy to misclassify workers and rack up legal fees and fines before you know it. Classifying workers correctly the first time around puts employers in a better position to adjust to changing laws in the future.

PayReel’s policy pros—in conjunction with our custom PayReel OnLine software—protect your sanity and your finances by sifting through the legal complexities and taking responsibility for your workers. As the employer of record for our clients, we are the ones on the hook if we get it wrong. The good news is, that rarely happens.

With PayReel, you can hire who you want, when you want, without worrying about overtime exemptions and worker classification. As the ones who are legally liable for our employees, and morally liable to our clients, we’re dedicated to understanding the ins and outs of both so we can make the right decisions.

 

What’s the bottom line?

The end of the year is a great time to review your payroll practices to be sure you are compliant or are in a position to stay compliant as laws change. If you don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to make sure you’re not trapped in a legal gray zone, get in touch with a team who does. PayReel’s policy pros are available around the clock at 303-526-4900, or you can shoot us an email by clicking here.

 


 
Nat's notes

About the author

PayReel Customer Experience Manager Natalie “The Go Getter” McGinnis recapped 2016’s biggest news in freelancer management to help you prepare for 2017. Nat’s experience in recruitment and customer service set her up for success in providing laser-focused attention and assistance to the PayReel employees and clients who need it the most. Click here to read more of Nat’s Notes and meet the rest of the PayReel team by clicking here!


Payrolling freelancers? Here are 4 ways to be ready for new overtime rules.

 

The Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) will make about 4 million more workers eligible for overtime on December 1st, 2016. With 21 states suing to end the act altogether, some businesses may be hoping it all just goes away before they have to make changes. But waiting is risky. Getting ready for upcoming changes now ensures companies stay in good standing with employees and the government, too.

 

Four ways to prepare for payrolling contract employees in light of new rules

 

1. Provide a daily guarantee for a pre-negotiated flat rate for contractors. Budget for overtime if applicable.

2. Start tracking time accurately. Businesses and contractors using obligatory, inaccurate timecards need time to adjust to new processes.

3. Classify workers correctly up front. This is a big one because it sets you up for success. In fact, you can read a whole slew of advice on the topic by clicking here.

4. Read our previous posts on what the Volkswagon scandal teaches us about the FSLA and payrolling and four ways to prepare for changes to contractor payroll.

 

The production industry must adapt to remain competitive. And it may wreak havoc on some budgets in the short term. But this whole thing goes beyond the numbers. Companies that treat people fairly attract high quality workers. And when people feel valued, they go above and beyond. Proactive compliance is good business.

 

About PayReel

Producing multimedia content and executing live events is chaotic. At PayReel, we make sure our clients are able to hire who they want, when they want and that everyone is paid properly. Leave the details up to the PayReel team so you can focus on pulling off a flawless production. Contact us anytime at 303-526-4900 or by emailing us here.

Relax. We got it.

 

Ten questions to help you decide if you really need to pay for payroll services

Time is money. And when you have a tendency to get buried under onboarding, vendor payment, classifying temporary employees, and other hiring details, time is priceless. Here’s a brief quiz to determine if hiring someone to handle your payroll services might be worth the investment.

 

Do you regularly hire independent contractors and/or temporary employees?

 

Is said hiring and onboarding one of the most time-consuming parts of your role?

 

Do old school payment processes or corporate legal concerns cause frustrating bottlenecks?

 

Is your desk/desktop cluttered with binders, folders, and paperwork?

 

Have you ever made a contacting mis-hire because of a time crunch?

 

Do you get pulled into fighting payrolling fires at least once a month?

 

Would a high level of service free you up to focus on other aspects of business?

 

Do concerns about compliance, worker classification, IRS audits, and workforce headcount keep you up at night?

 

Have you ever lost favor with one of your best contractors by paying late?

 

Do you have a reputation among contractors for paying late?

 

Not everyone needs a service like PayReel (especially startups and small businesses), but if your blood pressure went up as you read the list above, you might need PayReel. For those who need quick/frequent access to qualified contractors or who want to take all the risk out of dealing with the independent workforce, PayReel is a headache free solution. PayReel’s independent workforce engagement solutions makes classifying, onboarding, and paying your freelancers painless, paperless, and personalized. It’s about time.

 

PayReel’s clients, who are some of the biggest companies in the world, are constantly immersed in the chaos of producing multimedia content or executing live events. PayReel makes sure they have the right contractors at the right time in the right place, and that everyone gets paid properly. And, most importantly, they handle every last detail perfectly while making sure their clients think nothing of it. Relax. We got it.

Be prepared: Is setting up independent contractors about to get harder?

 

In any game-changing endeavor, the trailblazers have both the most to gain and the most at stake. Since its start in 2009, Uber, a spearhead in the gig economy, has earned a $62.5 billion valuation and forked out millions in legal settlements due to worker classification missteps. The gig economy and technological advances are redefining business as we know it.

Here are our answers to a few of the questions you need to start asking yourself about setting up independent contractors, hiring employees, and what it all means for the future of your business.

 

Am I setting up independent contractors or hiring employees?

Nothing worth doing should be too easy—and that certainly applies to setting up independent contractors. Mistakes can be costly and generate bad press.

The rule of thumb is that independent contractors have a great deal of say in how, when, and how often they work; but are not entitled to their clients’ company benefits. Generally, employees have less freedoms but are entitled to company benefits.

Worker classification is never simple, but we’ve done a whole series on the subject to make it easier for you to be prepared. If you’re still unsure about whether you’re setting up independent contractors or employees, our worker classification quiz can help.

 

Are there other worker classification twists that I should know about?

For those who don’t fit neatly into one of the two descriptions above, some economists advocate for a “…third category of worker for the gig economy: the ‘independent worker.’ These hands would have the right to organise and would have social-security contributions made on their behalf. But they would not receive the minimum wage or unemployment insurance.” 

The game is changing and it pays to stay abreast of of the laws surrounding worker classification, setting up independent contractors, and hiring employees. Don’t have the knowledge or the time to immerse yourself? You know who to call. (Hint: it isn’t The Ghostbusters.)

 

About PayReel

Producing multimedia content and executing live events is chaotic. At PayReel, we make sure our clients are able to hire who they want, when they want and that everyone is paid properly. Leave the details up to the PayReel team so you can focus on pulling off a flawless production. Contact us anytime at 303-526-4900 or by emailing us here.

Relax. We got it.

 

Uber Lessons on Avoiding Worker Classification Problems

Need a ride? Get a Lyft.

Want a meal? Here’s your hub for grub.

Need a bed? Skip the air mattress: Airbnb instead.

Companies providing on-demand products and services have revolutionized the economy. And Uber is at the front of the pack; pushing boundaries in both worker classification and technology. While this new frontier is sometimes undefined, it is still subject to fines and lawsuits—both of which are eating into Uber’s profits.

With its latest settlement of at least $84 million, Uber avoided having to classify drivers, who are currently independent contractors, as employees. The battle may not be over, but in the meantime, all businesses can learn a few things from Uber’s über settlement.

1) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate  

Fuzzy terms cause mistrust among employees, independent contractors, and consumers alike. Several disputes with Uber boil down to its lack of transparency. Los Angeles and San Francisco allege the company misled customers. Even Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick acknowledged a communication failure with its drivers, saying,

“…as Uber has grown—over 450,000 drivers use the app each month here in the U.S.—we haven’t always done a good job working with drivers. For example, we don’t have a policy explaining when and how we bar drivers from using the app, or a process to appeal these decisions. At our size that’s not good enough. It’s time to change.”

2) Invest In Worker Classification

The complaints against Uber point to the fact that any gray area in how a worker is defined can cause trouble. What’s worse is that the rules for setting up an independent contractor aren’t always easy to interpret. In fact, we have a whole worker classification series as well as a worker classification quiz to help you understand the law and avoid costly fines. 

In addition to setting up independent contractors correctly, having an airtight system in place for consistently payrolling all of those contractors also protects against future headaches. Confusion over worker classification and inconsistent payment practices can lead to fines, lawsuits, and unhappy workers or customers—all of which are damaging to business. Any way you slice it, making sure you get it right up front is worth the investment.

Need help getting worker classification right? Well you’ve come to the right place, because we’ve been doing just that for three decades. Contact us today and avoid the fines and lawsuits. 

About PayReel:

PayReel’s clients, who are some of the biggest companies in the world, are constantly immersed in the chaos of producing multimedia content or executing live events. PayReel makes sure they have the right contractors at the right time in the right place, and that everyone gets paid properly. And, most importantly, they handle every last detail—down to worker classification—perfectly while making sure their clients think nothing of it, so they can get back to doing what they do best.

This Worker Classification Myth is Hurting Your Business

Sorry, y’all: The five-second rule is bogus. Germs don’t offer a grace period before jumping on your food. Not even your last bite of the really delicious stuff. But that one about metal objects dissolving in a glass of Coke? Still up for debate. And we won’t be testing it to find out.

Myths can be dangerous, silly, or in the case of worker classification—bad for business.

There is a fine line between an employee and an independent contractor and laws surrounding worker classification are confusing. We’ve seen companies go to great lengths to comply with nonexistent rules, so we were compelled to bust one of the most damaging worker classification myths we’ve seen.

The Myth About Worker Classification

After a certain amount of time working for you, an independent contractor must be reclassified as an employee.

We think this myth likely comes from one-time best practices that were interpreted as hard and fast rules. Wherever the myth comes from, we’ve seen clients build all sorts of policies to get around the supposed law. We’ve seen them hire workers for six months, drop them for a period of time, and then rehire them, for example. Some companies even refuse to rehire independent contractors after working with them for a certain amount of time because they’re afraid they’ll have to provide all of the benefits associated with hiring an employee. Not only are these policies time consuming, they can hurt businesses that rely on trustworthy freelancers.

The Truth About Worker Classification

We think it’s time for everyone to bust the myth and bust free from self-imposed restrictions.

Here’s the liberating truth: If you find a good contractor and want to use them over and over, you can. There are rules, which vary by location, but there are also legal ways to keep your best people working for you.

If you’re confused by compliance laws and fear your workers are misclassified, PayReel can help. Reach out to our team of experts on all things freelance. Get away from the burden of onboarding, payrolling and classifying your workers and focus on what you love.

About PayReel:

PayReel’s clients, who are some of the biggest companies in the world, are constantly immersed in the chaos of producing multimedia content or executing live events. PayReel makes sure they have the right contractors at the right time in the right place, and that everyone gets paid properly. And, most importantly, they handle every last detail perfectly while making sure their clients think nothing of it, so they can get back to doing what they do best.