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CA's New Employment Law is Crushing Freelancers

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California’s new employment law has boomeranged and is starting to crush freelancers

"Jeremiah LaBrash, 36, works as a tech programmer for a telecom by day and as a freelance cartoonist for media companies on his time off. Sometimes he brings in half of his annual income from his freelance work.

That changed when Assembly Bill 5 passed in California and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into law on Sept. 18. The law requires most companies to reclassify contract, freelance and contingent workers — the backbone of the gig economy —as full-time employees eligible for benefits, a guaranteed $12–$13 state minimum wage and protections under the state’s employment law.

 

LaBrash, based in Los Angeles, suddenly found potential projects drying up when he submitted onboarding paperwork to potential clients and they discovered he lived in California.

“I’ve had them hire me and then come back and say they’re no longer interested,” says LaBrash. “All of a sudden, someone I’ve never talked to says, ‘We’ve decided not to move forward.’ I’ve never had that happen before this year.”

 

LaBrash can’t be certain the reason is AB 5, though he believes it is. He has seen a 40% decline in his freelance income since the law passed in September. “My savings are stagnant,” says LaBrash. “I really can’t look into buying a house. The housing market here is hard already.”

Even if employers hire him for freelance work, he is limited to 35 annual submissions per client before they have to put him on payroll, he notes. It’s a limit under the law. That’s not a large amount for regular contributors to media companies. “You’re going to hit your quota and they won’t want to hire you,” he says.

The ripple effect on the gig economy

LaBrash isn’t alone in fearing he’ll lose a big part of his income as a freelancer. AB 5 has sent shock waves through the world of companies that employ freelancers and the independent workers whom they rely on since it passed. The law codifies the ABC test — which helps employers determine who should be classified as a freelancer — giving exemptions to some types of freelancers, such as architects, doctors, insurance agents, lawyers, grant writers, real estate agents, tutors, truck drivers and manicurists.

 

The law, which takes effect Jan.1, 2020, could cost the employers a lot of money. It says the exemptions are retroactive. The California Supreme Court just announced this week it will make a decision on whether the ABC test applies to contractor relationships prior to April 30, 2019, before the California Supreme Court opted to use the ABC test in the court case Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles.

 

“I don’t believe legislators realized the impact this had,” says Gene Zaino, founder and executive chairman of MBO Partners, which studies the freelance economy and provides back-office services to freelancers. “This was really designed to create a safety net for people that needed it. Legislators didn’t realize at the same time, they impacted millions of people in thousands of businesses that are using freelancers, even though that was not their intent. A lot of businesses are paralyzed, in terms of ‘everyone needs to be on payroll.’”

 

More at: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/11/californias-new-employment-law-is-starting-to-crush-freelan...

 

The law of unintended consequences in action.

 

 

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