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While most people were distracted by other news (Comey, Russia, leaks, etc.) or just not looking, there were big policy changes benefiting Uber on the "worker misclassification" issue. Are drivers employees or independent contractors? Uber's lobbyists are finding a more favorable business climate with the new administration and a much more relaxed view of the political bribery statues.

A boost for Uber and McDonald's.
Politico 06/09/2017 by DANNY VINIK

It's the most controversial question in the labor world these days: When is a worker an employee, and when is he or she an independent contractor? That question has been especially controversial for "gig economy" companies like Uber and Postmates. But increasingly, regular businesses are also opting to classify their workers as independent contractors, which can cut their labor costs sharply by not obliging them to offer benefits like health insurance or pay employer payroll taxes. According to one recent study, the percentage of workers employed as contractors grew by almost 30 percent from 2005 to 2015.

In 2015, the Obama administration gave workers a win on this one: It issued a guidance document explaining how the Department of Labor would interpret the law, outlining the economic tests it employed in determining whether an employer was misclassifying its workers. The agency had already been using that policy in enforcing the law, but putting it in writing sent a clear message to employers across the country that the Obama administration was serious about cracking down on worker misclassification.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration withdrew the guidance document. This was a win for business owners in any number of sectors-not just Uber, but industries such as farming and construction, which increasingly use independent contractors. The withdrawal of the document doesn't change the underlying law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, or the DOL's current interpretation of it but sends a strong signal to employers that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta plans to interpret it differently than his predecessor. "The big story is not that, for whatever reason, they pulled down guidance," said David Weil, who issued the document under Obama. "The real question is what else comes with this."

Acosta also withdrew another Obama-era guidance document on how the department will determine whether a parent company, like McDonald's or Subway, is jointly responsible for its franchises' labor violations. As with worker misclassification, the Obama-era DOL interpreted the joint employment standard favorably for workers; its withdrawal is a victory for businesses.
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