WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call to discuss landmark legislation he introduced this fall to protect workers as corporations increasingly classify them as independent contractors and use sub-contractors, temporary (temp) agencies, and corporate franchises to avoid labor laws. Brown’s legislation, the Worker Flexibility and Small Business Protection Act, would help workers at app-based businesses like Uber and Instacart, as well as Amazon delivery workers, home health aides, workers classified as “temps” at plants like GM, and more. This legislation comes at a particularly critical time, when President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee could pose a serious threat to labor and workers’ rights.

“Hard work doesn’t pay off like it should—wages and benefits have declined or stagnated for decades while corporate profits soar because employers increasingly use independent contractor status, temp staffing agencies, franchises, and subcontracting to increase profits and shed responsibility to their workers. These anti-worker policies disproportionately affect Black and brown workers—especially women—and are part of the legacy of systemic discrimination that has exacerbated the racial wealth gap in this country. This legislation will end that race-to-the-bottom business model, protect workers’ rights, and hold employers accountable,” said Brown.

Brown was joined on the call by Sarah Ingles, local labor attorney based in Columbus and Board President of the Central Ohio Workers Center.

“When a worker suffers from wage theft, it ravages their life. Suddenly, paying bills on time, affording medical care and basic necessities, and sustaining a basic and modest lifestyle seems impossible. Moreover, it strips workers of the dignity of their work, and it's plain unfair and morally wrong. Misclassification of workers is just one form of wage theft, but it is a form that is pervasive not only in Ohio, but across the country. If we want an economy that works for all people, we must create and implement policies that include all people and that protect them from exploitation and unfair employment practices,” said Ingles.  

For decades, corporations have misused these legal arrangements to avoid having a legally recognized employment relationship with their workers to skirt labor laws that protect workers’ rights. Senator Brown’s bill with Senator Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) will finally protect workers against corporate abuses and ensure they get the rights and protections they deserve. Brown’s bill would also help protect small businesses, which would no longer be forced to compete with huge corporations that violate workers’ rights to undercut them for business.

As the Trump Administration continues to release rules eroding protections for workers, it’s clear our labor laws must be updated to better protect them. Just last week, the administration released a rule to make it more difficult for gig workers and contract workers to become employees.  

Specifically, this bill will:

·       Strengthen the definition of “employee.” The bill will create a new standard where workers are always presumed to be employees. The bill will also create a strong “ABC” test, ensuring that workers will only be considered independent contractors if: (A) the individual is free from control and direction; (B) the labor is performed outside the usual course of business; and (C) the individual is engaged in an independently established business.

·       Create the right to flexibility at work. The bill gives workers who are currently treated by their employers as independent contractors the right to maintain their scheduling flexibility and gives all employees greater scheduling flexibility.

·       Ensure corporations are held accountable when they misclassify workers as independent contractors and deny them rights. This bill will make it a violation to wrongly classify an employee as an independent contractor and mandate companies reclassify workers if they are found in violation.

·       Protect “temp” workers. The bill will create a host of new protections for the millions of “temp” workers across the country to ensure they are not paid less than direct employees, have the right to transition to full direct employees after one year, and have access to unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation.

·       Protect small businesses by making big businesses jointly responsible for worker protections. In addition to forcing large corporations to share responsibility for respecting labor laws so that small businesses are not forced to compete with scofflaws companies that violate workers’ rights, the bill will protect small franchises of large corporations by finally holding their parent corporations responsible for corporate-driven violations of workers’ rights. The bill also puts CEOs and top shareholders on the hook for workers’ right violations and requires large employers to create plans to address workers’ rights violations throughout their supply chains.

·       Expand public transparency. The bill will require companies to post notices of their compliance with labor laws so that consumers can choose to support good businesses over ones that violate workers’ rights.

·       Establish broad and increasing worker protections that will end the continuing erosion of workers’ rights. This bill requires workers’ rights to be interpreted broadly and exceptions to be interpreted narrowly, increases the time period that workers have to sue to vindicate their rights, and prohibits agencies from weakening worker protections. This will ensure a safe and secure future for workers.

A summary of the bill can be found HERE and the bill text can be found HERE.