With its settlement just this week, General Assembly is the latest to make news on the worker classification issue. Companies aren’t the only ones paying attention. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Labor (DOL) have enough skin in the game to keep a close eye on the subject, too. When those two pay close attention to something, it behooves all companies to do the same or risk costly, damaging, and time-consuming consequences.
Here are 3 reasons you can’t ignore worker classification rules:
1. The government isn’t
For years, the IRS and DOL had bigger fish to fry. Lax regulations essentially led to a jaywalker’s attitude among businesses. The thought being that it’s okay to ignore the unnecessarily-restrictive law as long as you look both ways. As the economic landscape shifts and independent contractors rise in prevalence, the financial stakes and potential for missed revenue get higher. In response, government agencies have been ramping up their focus on the subject and the debate on how to define an employee rages on.
The IRS and DOL are not alone. States are joining the fray, attempting to crack down on misclassification, too.
2. Consequences are expensive
There’s big money at stake. In addition to potential for paying back pay and benefits,you’re looking at a per employee fine and potential legal fees, too. General Assembly’s one million dollar settlement is small potatoes. Look a little further back and you’ll find that FedEx shelled out $228 million in a misclassification case. Then there’s well-known Microsoft example, in which $97 million was paid out plus millions in legal fees in a benefits dispute with its long-term temps. And of course there’s Uber which lost a dispute over whether drivers were independent contractors (as Uber said) or employees (as the law determined).
Just when you thought government scrutiny was driving you crazy enough, here come the lawyers. Where the money goes, they follow. There’s big money in class action lawsuits seeking unpaid benefits, expenses and overtime for workers who can make a case they should’ve been treated as employees.
3. “We didn’t mean to” doesn’t hold up in court
When you knowingly misclassify employees as independent contractors, it’s called wage theft. When you do it accidentally, it’s called wage theft.
Yes, the rules are confusing. Like many things government, oh what a tangled web the federal and state laws weave. Some laws are interpreted differently from state to state and some tests used to determine status are subjective. But the rules, straight from the horse’s mouth, is a good place to start.
In addition to the financial burdens and time-sucking nature of it all, your credibility is on the line. Getting audited is a PR nightmare and depending on the industry or nature of the company’s business, the press would love to expose a company’s misclassification and actual or perceived abuse of labor laws.
Getting the government, lawyers, and media on your case is a guaranteed trifecta of pain. It can be overwhelming, but even the DOL and IRS recognize independent contractors can be a legitimate part of a business plan and are an important part of our economy. The best way to stay in the clear is to stay in the know. So get smart and there’s no need to burn your W9s and run for the hills.
At PayReel, we minimize the time and effort it takes to get you ready for your project. Rely on PayReel to assume all of the risk associated with worker classification and get back to the business at hand. We make sure you get paid quick and easy, and have Client Relationship Managers on call around the clock to answer your questions. All you have to do is call 303-526-4900 or email us. The PayReel team makes event payroll easier, faster, and seamless.