How freelancers and contractors can remain independent with AB5


  • California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) went into impact on January 1, 2020, codifying a California Supreme Court determination made in April 2018 on account of the Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court case.
  • When it went into impact, it required that each one employees be thought of workers. The hiring get together should use an ABC take a look at to show that they are independent contractors.
  • Some occupations are exempt from AB5, however they have to nonetheless go the Borello take a look at to find out their independent contractor standing. Freelancers can now not submit greater than 35 separate items of content material to a single shopper in a single yr or much less.
  • In August, Uber and Lyft threatened to close down operations in California, resisting orders from a choose to reclassify their drivers as workers. They have been granted non permanent reprieve and can proceed enterprise as regular because the courtroom seems over their enchantment. 
  • The ridesharing corporations and different meals supply giants, together with DoorDash, Postmates, and Instacart, banded collectively to create and fund Proposition 22, a November poll measure that can exempt them from AB5 necessities. 
  • In addition to abiding by the 35-piece submission rule, freelancers who need to remain independent ought to speak to their employers, take steps to verify they can go each the ABC and Borello checks, and think about consulting a lawyer.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

On January 1, 2020, California Assembly Bill 5 (known as AB5) went into impact.

Authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and signed into legislation by Governor Gavin Newsom in September, the invoice’s primary objective is to require California employers to stick to a stricter definition of “independent contractor.”

As a outcome, numerous corporations have needed to reclassify a lot of their independent contractors as workers, thus permitting these employees to profit from conventional labor protections and minimal wage legal guidelines. 

AB5 is codifying an April 2018 determination made by California’s Supreme Court in a case known as Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, wherein the courtroom decided that an organization known as Dynamex incorrectly labeled their drivers as independent contractors. 

Because of Dynamex, there’s now a presumption that each one California employees are workers, not independent contractors, except the hiring get together proves in any other case. Two different states have already got a legislation like this — Massachusetts and Virginia — and New Jersey proposed an identical invoice on November 7, 2019. 

AB5 affected over a million Californians, together with rideshare drivers, roughly 70,000 truck drivers, freelance creatives, and extra. Here’s an summary of the way it works, who precisely it impacts, and what California freelancers can do about it. 

The reasoning behind AB5

Gonzalez proposed AB5 as a result of she believed many employers misclassified people as independent contractors in an effort to chop prices, a shortcut she thought had unfair and detrimental penalties for these employees.

This is a nationwide downside. An IRS audit discovered that misclassification really led to over $44 billion in unpaid taxes from 2008 to 2010.

In addition, Gonzalez said in an interview that she’d heard of approach too many Lyft and Uber drivers who have been barely in a position to make a residing, even if when each Lyft and Uber went public, a number of of their present and former high executives turned multimillionaires — and others made billions. Her answer to that? AB5.

How AB5 works 

Post Dynamex, each employee is taken into account an worker — that means they’re entitled to any advantages the corporate provides, and the corporate controls when and how they do their work — except all three elements of the next ABC take a look at are true:

A. The employee should be free from the hiring firm’s management in how and once they do their job.

B. The employee should carry out work exterior of the hiring firm’s core enterprise.

C. The employee is usually engaged in an independently established commerce, occupation, or enterprise of the identical nature because the work carried out for the hiring entity.

There are a number of occupations exempt from AB5, comparable to accountants, insurance coverage brokers, and funding advisors. For them, the ABC take a look at is not mandatory, however these people do nonetheless need to go the Borello take a look at, which has been in place since earlier than Dynamex.

“The Borello test looks at 11 factors, none of which are determinative, such as whether their work is part of the client’s regular business, the degree of permanence of the working relationship, and whether or not the parties believe they’re in an employer-employee relationship,” mentioned Alicia Calzada, deputy basic counsel of the National Press Photographers’ Association (NPPA), a company that represents and advocates for visible journalists everywhere in the nation. They filed a lawsuit towards AB5 in mid-December 2019.

Under the Borello take a look at, Uber and Lyft might classify their drivers as independent contractors as a result of not all 11 components needed to be met as a way to obtain independent contractor standing for his or her drivers. The primary precedence was to make sure that employees managed when and how they labored. Since drivers can select once they decide up passengers and how lengthy they drive for every day, this wasn’t a problem. 

But now, because of AB5, Lyft and Uber are topic to the ABC take a look at and should fulfill all three elements, which is sort of tough for them to do. When it involves half ‘b,’ drivers immediately contribute to the core enterprise. What would these rideshare corporations do with out drivers? And with reference to half ‘c,’ drivers doubtless aren’t working a rideshare platform of their very own. 

As for freelance creatives — writers, editors, photographers, designers, and so forth — they can’t submit greater than 35 items of content material to a single employer in a single yr. According to the stipulations of AB5, submitting greater than 35 strikes them out of the classification of independent contractor and into worker standing.  

Who AB5 impacts

AB5 affected just about anybody who wasn’t already labeled as an worker (whether or not full-time, part-time, or hourly), as that they had to try their position and guarantee they weren’t incorrectly labeled as an independent contractor. However, the burden of proving that somebody is an independent contractor falls solely on the shoulders of the hiring get together, not the employee.

Kiffanie Stahle

Kiffanie Stahle.

Kiffanie Stahle


Kiffanie Stahle, founding father of Stahle Law, a legislation agency that serves artistic companies, and the artist’s JD, a set of assets that helps artistic entrepreneurs perceive the authorized facets of their companies, mentioned that employees that felt impacted essentially the most have been those that by no means ought to’ve been labeled as an independent contractor within the first place.

“Those [independent contractors] providing services integral to the hiring party’s business will be most affected because those businesses will start understanding the risks,” she mentioned. And they are not going to need to take these dangers any longer, she added.

Workers incorrectly labeled as independent contractors are both transformed to worker standing, expertise decreased work masses (comparable to freelancers who’ll go from greater than 35 submissions a yr to much less), or lose their position fully, ought to the employer not need to make them full time or lack the funds to take action.

“Both freelancers and publications based in California will need to adhere to the 35-submission limit,” Calzada mentioned. “All of this will have a chilling effect on those who have been freelancing as journalists and news photographers for years.”

Michael Grecco, an award-winning photographer and movie director in California, could not predict in January precisely how a lot AB5 would have an effect on his livelihood, however he did not suppose it will be favorable. 

“[AB5] will limit the number of shoots I can do for any one client before they have to move on to the next [photographer],” he mentioned. “I can only deal with it when the situation arises, though.” A recurring shopper might attain out to Grecco and request a shoot the very subsequent day. But if he is already reached his 35-piece restrict for them, he’ll need to say no to the chance — and in all probability a superb chunk of income, too.

Even earlier than the legislation went into impact, many had already felt its affect. Vox Media, for instance, minimize 200 freelancers in December 2019 attributable to AB5, opting to switch them with 20 full-time workers.

How California freelancers can navigate AB5

Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash are presently combating the invoice by pouring $30 million into Proposition 22 — a November poll measure that will exempt them from AB5 — and claiming that the classification of drivers and supply employees as contractors protects part-time gig employees and their versatile schedules. Additionally, the California Trucking Association is actively difficult the invoice as a result of it’ll stop so many truck drivers from having the ability to do their jobs.

Two teams representing freelancers filed a swimsuit in December 2019 to get the a part of the legislation that can have an effect on them eliminated. However, a federal choose denied their requests to be exempted in January, claiming they waited too lengthy earlier than opposing the brand new legislation’s restrictions. 

Michael Grecco

Michael Grecco.

Michael Grecco


“The heart of the bill is a good idea — get freelancers who are regularly working for one particular client benefits,” Grecco mentioned. “This would’ve been great 15 years ago, but these days photographers, writers, and outlets are barely hanging on. It’s not a good time to try to give benefits in an industry that will end up cutting jobs because they can’t afford to provide benefits.”

If you are a freelancer in California and need to keep independent, here is some recommendation from Stahle and Chas Ramphenthal, basic counsel of LegalZoom, a web-based authorized tech firm.

Figure out your purchasers’ intentions

“The first thing a worker who wants to stay independent should do is get an idea if their hiring company is planning to treat them as an employee [going forward] or worse — terminate the contractor relationship based on the law,” Ramphenthal mentioned.

Take steps to go the ABC take a look at

If you do not go the ABC take a look at as is, attempt to work with your employer so that you can. This contains tweaking your job description and duties, having a written contract that stipulates that you’ve management over how and whenever you do your work, establishing an official enterprise entity, and advertising and marketing your online business. 

“It can be as simple as building a website showing you’re open for business, including a way for potential clients to request you to work for them,” Rampenthal mentioned.

Chas Ramphenthal

Chas Ramphenthal.

Chas Ramphenthal


To make sure you can additionally go the Borello take a look at, Stahle mentioned it is best to get a enterprise license, have a W9 type on file that you just routinely ship to new purchasers, and have the ability to simply present proof that you just work with different purchasers, comparable to constructing out a gross sales web page discussing the providers you provide or getting referrals from present purchasers.

“Get the name of one or two current clients who are willing to function as a reference and confirm that you work for them,” Stahle mentioned. “Under the business-to-business exemption [of the Borello test], one of the requirements is that you actually have other clients.” 

Ramphenthal additionally suggested offering your individual instruments, automobiles, and workspace. And, for those who occur to work out of an organization’s workplace, “attempt to spend as little time there as potential, and do it in a way the place it is as much as you, not the corporate.” In different phrases, you determine whenever you go there and how lengthy you keep — not them.

If you solely have one shopper, it is time to begin branching out, as it is going to be almost unattainable to be labeled as an independent contractor for those who solely do work for one employer. 

Adhere to the 35-submissions-per-client restrict

As Grecco talked about, this may very well be very arduous to plan for, as you by no means know when a shopper would possibly want work. It additionally will affect your earnings. But as of now this can be a rule it’s essential abide by.

As a lot as you can, take steps to estimate what number of submissions you’ve deliberate for every shopper, and be sure to trace them persistently all year long.

Take be aware: If you submit work to publications of various names which have the identical mother or father firm, it’s essential speak to them to ask if the 35-piece submission rule is per publication or for the mother or father firm as a complete.

Consult with a lawyer

Seeking recommendation from somebody who is aware of the ins and outs of the legislation is rarely a foul concept, particularly since you can ask about particulars particular to your state of affairs.

Of course, authorized recommendation can be costly, so Stahle advised California Lawyers for the Arts, a company she labored for whereas she was in legislation faculty. For a low value, they will pair you with an lawyer with whom you can have a 20-minute session. (Stahle additionally has a webinar about AB5 that you just can take a look at.)

Take a superb take a look at the way you presently function as an independent contractor to see for those who’re affected. And do not hesitate to achieve out to a lawyer to be sure you’re heading in the right direction.

This article was initially revealed on Business Insider on January 1, 2020. It has been up to date with new info.



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