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 choice made in April 2018 because of the Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court case.
  • When it went into impact, it required that every one staff be thought of workers. The hiring celebration should use an ABC check to show that they are independent contractors.
  • Some occupations are exempt from AB5, however they have to nonetheless go the Borello check 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 12 months 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 had been granted non permanent reprieve and can proceed enterprise as traditional because the courtroom seems over their enchantment. 
  • The ridesharing firms 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 wish to remain independent ought to speak to their employers, take steps to verify they can go each the ABC and Borello exams, 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 fundamental function is to require California employers to stick to a stricter definition of “independent contractor.”

As a consequence, numerous firms have needed to reclassify lots of their independent contractors as workers, thus permitting these staff to profit from conventional labor protections and minimal wage legal guidelines. 

AB5 is codifying an April 2018 choice made by California’s Supreme Court in a case known as Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, during which 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 every one California staff are workers, not independent contractors, except the hiring celebration 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 staff.

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

In addition, Gonzalez acknowledged in an interview that she’d heard of approach too many Lyft and Uber drivers who had been barely in a position to make a dwelling, even if when each Lyft and Uber went public, a number of of their present and former prime executives grew to become multimillionaires — and others made billions. Her resolution 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 check are true:

A. The employee have to 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 typically 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, reminiscent of accountants, insurance coverage brokers, and funding advisors. For them, the ABC check is not mandatory, however these people do nonetheless must go the Borello check, 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 normal counsel of the National Press Photographers’ Association (NPPA), a corporation that represents and advocates for visible journalists everywhere in the nation. They filed a lawsuit towards AB5 in mid-December 2019.

Under the Borello check, Uber and Lyft may classify their drivers as independent contractors as a result of not all 11 elements needed to be met so as to obtain independent contractor standing for his or her drivers. The fundamental precedence was to make sure that staff 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 difficulty. 

But now, because of AB5, Lyft and Uber are topic to the ABC check and should fulfill all three elements, which is kind of tough for them to do. When it involves half ‘b,’ drivers instantly contribute to the core enterprise. What would these rideshare firms do with out drivers? And with regard to half ‘c,’ drivers probably 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 12 months. 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 categorized as an worker (whether or not full-time, part-time, or hourly), as that they had to try their function and guarantee they weren’t incorrectly categorized as an independent contractor. However, the burden of proving that somebody is an independent contractor falls solely on the shoulders of the hiring celebration, 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 collection of sources that helps artistic entrepreneurs perceive the authorized features of their companies, mentioned that staff that felt impacted probably the most had 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 wish to take these dangers any longer, she added.

Workers incorrectly categorized as independent contractors are both transformed to worker standing, expertise diminished work masses (reminiscent of freelancers who’ll go from greater than 35 submissions a 12 months to much less), or lose their function utterly, ought to the employer not wish 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 might 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 may 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 must say no to the chance — and most likely 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 as a result of AB5, opting to interchange them with 20 full-time workers.

How California freelancers can navigate AB5

Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash are at the moment preventing 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 staff as contractors protects part-time gig staff and their versatile schedules. Additionally, the California Trucking Association is actively difficult the invoice as a result of it would stop so many truck drivers from with the ability to do their jobs.

Two teams representing freelancers filed a go well with 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 wish to keep independent, this is some recommendation from Stahle and Chas Ramphenthal, normal counsel of LegalZoom, a web based authorized tech firm.

Figure out your shoppers’ 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 check

If you do not go the ABC check 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 got management over how and if you do your work, establishing an official enterprise entity, and advertising and marketing your enterprise. 

“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 check, Stahle mentioned it’s best to get a enterprise license, have a W9 type on file that you simply mechanically ship to new shoppers, and have the ability to simply present proof that you simply work with different shoppers, reminiscent of constructing out a gross sales web page discussing the providers you provide or getting referrals from present shoppers.

“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, autos, and workspace. And, in the event you occur to work out of an organization’s workplace, “attempt to spend as little time there as potential, and do it in a fashion the place it is as much as you, not the corporate.” In different phrases, you resolve if 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 categorized as an independent contractor in the event you solely do work for one employer. 

Adhere to the 35-submissions-per-client restrict

As Grecco talked about, this could possibly be very exhausting to plan for, as you by no means know when a shopper may want work. It additionally will affect your revenue. But as of now it is a rule that you must abide by.

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

Take word: If you submit work to publications of various names which have the identical guardian firm, that you must speak to them to ask if the 35-piece submission rule is per publication or for the guardian firm as an entire.

Consult with a lawyer

Seeking recommendation from somebody who is aware of the ins and outs of the legislation isn’t a foul concept, particularly since you can ask about particulars particular to your scenario.

Of course, authorized recommendation can be costly, so Stahle prompt California Lawyers for the Arts, a corporation she labored for whereas she was in legislation college. For a low value, they’re going to pair you with an lawyer with whom you can have a 20-minute session. (Stahle additionally has a webinar about AB5 that you simply can take a look at.)

Take have a look at the way you at the moment function as an independent contractor to see in the event you’re affected. And do not hesitate to succeed in 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 data.



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