Raise your hand if you remember the 1982 song “Twilight Zone”? Seeing several hands raised, I will continue. The tune is catchy, but the lyrics are hard to understand. I heard the song this weekend and decided to finally check the lyrics. “There’s a storm on the loose, zarmines in my head” couldn’t be right, could it?
Raise your hand if you knew the chorus was this:
Help I’m steppin’ into the twilight zone
The place is a madhouse,
Feels like being cloned
My beacon’s been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go, now that I’ve gone too far?
Seeing no hands raised, I will continue.
It’s all very confusing to me, but it made sense once I read through it more carefully.
I had the same reaction after seeing an amicus brief that the AFL-CIO recently filed with the NLRB. The brief was filed in a case that may — yet again — change the test for independent contractor status.
In Atlanta Opera, the Regional Director for Region 10 ruled that a proposed unit of makeup artists and hairstylists were employees, not independent contractors, and that an election could proceed.
The NLRB then issued a notice asking the parties and the public for briefs addressing whether the Board should reconsider the test for determining whether workers are independent contractors or employees. It seems inevitable that the Board will rewrite the test to make it harder for a worker to be deemed a contractor. But is Atlanta Opera the right case to use for rewriting the test?
The AFL-CIO, somewhat surprisingly, said no. Like the lyrics to “Twilight Zone,” that was confusing to me at first, but it makes sense when I read through it more carefully.
Undoubtedly the unions want a rewrite of the test to make it as hard as possible for someone to maintain contractor status. But the AFL-CIO urged the NLRB to wait, arguing this isn’t the right set of facts to make a sweeping change.
The AFL-CIO’s brief argued that, even under the existing test, it was pretty clear the makeup artists and stylists were employees. It would be more impactful to wait for a closer case to rewrite the test. Ah, so that’s their angle — wait til later then really shake things up.
Eventually, the NLRB is going to change the test. The current test, explained in SuperShuttle DFW (discussed here), examines ten Right to Control factors.
At a minimum, it seems clear that the Board would like to go back to the FedEx Home Delivery test. The FedEx test asked whether the worker was “in fact, rendering services as part of an independent business” and essentially adopted an Economic Realities Test, rather than the Right to Control Test that had always been applied.
When the Board revises the test, it could go back to FedEx or it could try to adopt a new, more stringent test, like an ABC Test. (The courts probably would not allow the Board to adopt an ABC Test without Congressional action, but that’s for another day.)
And the Board will revise the test. It’s just a question of when and to what. The Board will make it harder to be an independent contractor under federal labor law. That means it will become easier for unions to file election petitions and try to organize groups of workers that might now be operating as independent contractors.
Yeah there’s a storm on the loose, sirens in my head.
Oh. That makes more sense.
© 2022 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.