Independent Contractor Compliance Practice
Practice Group Leaders
Richard J. Reibstein (employment/labor matters)
Lisa B. Petkun (tax matters)
Andrew J. Rudolph (employee benefits matters)
Private and governmental employers have substantially increased their use of independent contractors (ICs), long-term temps and other contingent workers to supplement their regular workforces. For those employers that properly classify their 1099ers as independent contractors, state and federal laws permit them to exclude such workers from costly legal payments such as income tax withholding, FICA and Medicare contributions, and unemployment and workers’ compensation premiums. Independent contractors can also be excluded from participation in employee benefit plans such as pension and group medical plans.
Responding to mounting evidence that many employers nationwide have misclassified some of their employees as independent contractors as a cost-saving measure, many employers believed to be misclassifying employees as 1099ers have been the subject of a crackdown by the IRS, state and federal labor departments and plaintiffs’ class action lawyers. In addition, state and federal legislatures, often at the behest of unions, have been active in seeking to curtail misclassification and increase the penalties for misclassifying employees as independent contractors. These initiatives, each of which are described in more detail below, have increased the need for companies that use independent contractors to examine closely the structure, documentation, and implementation of their business models and, where necessary, to take steps to enhance their independent contractor compliance and minimize or eliminate their exposure to misclassification liability.
State and Federal Regulatory and Enforcement Initiatives
State and Federal Legislative Initiatives
Class Action Litigation
Meeting Legal Challenges to the Valid Use of Independent Contractors
To help employers meet these various legal challenges to their valid use of independent contractors and other types of contingent workers, Pepper Hamilton has established its Independent Contractor Compliance Practice Group. It focuses on the interrelated legal issues involving independent contractors by using an interdisciplinary approach, along with proprietary tools and techniques, to diagnose and enhance employers’ compliance with independent contractor laws.
Pepper’s Independent Contractor Compliance Practice Group includes more than 30 employment, tax, employee benefits, and class action attorneys working collectively. Our approach helps organizations legally use independent contractors, in compliance with applicable employment, tax and employee benefits laws, and to minimize exposure to liability from such laws. We also defend organizations subject to misclassification challenges brought in judicial and administrative proceedings and audits by governmental agencies and private class action lawyers. Few industries are immune from such legal challenges, and our lawyers have represented clients in independent contractor compliance matters in a host of diverse industries.
A list of our representative engagements reflects the breadth of Pepper’s Independent Contractor Compliance practice. Our engagements in the area of class action defense of employment cases can be found on the firm’s Class Action Litigation practice description.
Our lawyers understand that an audit by an unemployment or workers’ compensation agency of a company’s use of independent contractors also may lead to legal challenges to a company’s tax and employee benefits practices, and vice-versa. When asked by clients to enhance their compliance with independent contractor laws, we examine the issues and propose compliance measures, including alternatives, in all related disciplines – labor/employment, tax, and employee benefits – using our proprietary “IC Diagnostics™” tools based on continually updated legal research of federal and the laws in all 50 states. Our practice is nationwide and, where applicable, we will work with lawyers in specific states.
Our practice group leaders publish a blog at www.independentcontractorcompliance.com, which covers nearly all new developments in this area of the law and includes the most complete set of legal resources for companies and lawyers seeking information about independent contractor misclassification.
Members of our practice group have conducted numerous seminars and presentations and written more than a dozen articles on misclassification liability, how to enhance compliance with laws permitting the use of independent contractors, and other matters of vital interest to organizations that make use of independent contractors, long-term temps and other types of contingent workers. We also have been quoted in the American Bar Association Journal and many other leading business and legal publications on the subject of misclassification of independent contractors.