Saint Paul, Minnesota — Today, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the first step in an agency’s attempt to make a substantive change to the rules, regulations, and interpretations in its purview. The Department intends to change its interpretation of “independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act.” In other words, the Department of Labor wants to make it easier for employers to decide that their workers aren’t employees, but independent contractors — and thus exempt from many of the protections workers have long since secured.

Unlike employees, “independent contractors” don’t have to be paid the minimum wage. They don’t have to be paid for overtime work. Employers don’t have to keep records about their independent contractors. By making it easier to classify workers as independent contractors, DOL is engaged in a transparent attempt to remove workers from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

That the current DOL would work against the best interest of workers is no surprise. It has been clear for years that, under this administration, the Department is no longer working to advance its stated mission, “To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” Instead, the Department is on the side of employers who want to get away with blatant abuse of their workforce.

Despite the egregious nature of the substance of the proposed rulemaking, it is not the only problem with the Department of Labor’s proposal. The process outlined today deviates from the commonly used DOL process for issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Instead of giving the public 60 days to comment, the people are being given only 30 — a clear attempt to ensure the voice of workers and allies are silenced.

The process being used by the Department, so soon before an election, is an attempt to disempower workers, so that the government might strip their rights all the easier. We stand in solidarity with workers everywhere, and against today’s action by the Department of Labor.

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About the People’s Parity Project

Founded in 2018, the People’s Parity Project is a nationwide network of law students and new attorneys organizing to unrig the legal system and build a justice system that values people over profits. The organization is grounded in the belief that members of the legal profession have a responsibility to demystify—and dismantle—the coercive legal tools that have stacked the system against the people. PPP is fighting for a civil legal system that works for working people, especially workers of color, women, and low-wage, precarious, immigrant, disabled, and LGBTQ+ workers. Learn more: www.peoplesparity.org/about.