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Everything you need to know about BMD and the industry.

DOL Finalizes New Rule Regarding Independent Contractor Status, But Its Future Is In Jeopardy

On January 6, 2021, the Department of Labor announced its final rule regarding independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. As described in a prior BMD client alert, this new rule was fast-tracked by the Trump administration after its proposal in September 2020. The new rule is set to take effect on March 8, 2021, and contains several key developments related to the "economic reality" test used to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee under the FLSA.

The new rule represents a more employer-friendly approach, intended to be more precise and predictable than the existing multifactor balancing test.

  • This new approach to the economic reality test considers whether a worker is in business for themselves or is economically dependent on the putative employer by looking at five distinct factors.     
  • Two core factors are given greater weight in determining whether or not the worker is economically dependent: the nature and degree of the worker's control over the work, and the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative and/or investment.
  • Three other factors may also contribute to the analysis, including the amount of skill required for the work, the degree of permanence of the working relationship, and whether the work is part of an integrated unit of production.
  • The final rule prioritizes analysis of actual practices over what is theoretically possible in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.

However, this rule is likely in immediate jeopardy as Democrats are set to control all three branches of government in the coming weeks. The United States Department of Labor is a cabinet-level department and the appointees to lead those departments will not face the check of a Republican controlled Senate. Although the DOL moved quickly enough to finalize the rule before Biden takes office, because the rule’s effective date falls after the transition, the new administration may be able to delay the effective date of the rule by up to 60 days. During this postponement, the Biden administration could seek to propose a new rule or repeal the Trump administration rule through the administrative rule-making process.

In addition, the results of the senatorial elections in Georgia have great significance for recently finalized rules. The Congressional Review Act gives Congress the power to halt rules shortly after they become final, through a congressional resolution of disapproval. Because Democrats will soon control the House, Senate, and Presidency, they will likely have a window of opportunity to nix the DOL’s newly finalized independent contractor rule.  

The BMD Employment and Labor Law Practice Group will keep you updated as further developments arise, and we are available to assist if you have questions regarding independent contractor status under the FLSA.

Explosive Growth in Pot of Gold Opportunity for Bank (and Other) Cannabis Lenders Driving Erosion of the Barriers

Our original article on bank lending to the cannabis industry anticipated that the convergence of interest between banks and the cannabis industry would draw more and larger banks to the industry. Banks were awash in liquidity with limited deployment options, while bankable cannabis businesses had rapidly growing needs for more and lower cost credit. Since then, the pot of gold opportunity for banks to lend into the cannabis industry has grown exponentially due to a combination of market constraints on equity causing a dramatic shift to debt and the ever-increasing capital needs of one of the country’s fastest growing industries. At the same time, hurdles to entry of new banks are being systematically cleared as the yellow brick road to the cannabis industry’s access to the financial markets is being paved, brick by brick, by the progressively increasing number and size of banks that are now entering the market.

2021 EEOC Charge Statistics: Retaliation & Impact of Remote Work

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its detailed information on workplace discrimination charges it received in 2021. Unsurprisingly, for the second year in a row, the total number of charges decreased as COVID-19 either shut down workplaces or disconnected employees from each other. In 2021, the agency received a total of approximately 61,000 workplace discrimination charges - the fewest in 25 years by a wide margin. For reference, the agency received over 67,000 charges in 2020, and averaged almost 90,000 charges per year over the previous 10 years.

Ohio’s Managed Care Overhaul Delayed – New Implementation Timeline

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) launched the Medicaid Managed Care Procurement process in 2019. ODM’s stated vision for the procurement was to focus on people and not just the business of managed care. This is the first structural change to Ohio’s managed care system since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) approval of Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2005. Initially, all of the new managed care programs were supposed to be implemented starting on July 1, 2022. However, ODM Director Maureen Corcoran recently confirmed that this date will be pushed back for several managed care-related programs.

Laboratory Specimen Collection Arrangements with Contract Hospitals - OIG Advisory Opinion 22-09

On April 28, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published an Advisory Opinion[1] in which it evaluated a proposed arrangement where a network of clinical laboratories (the “Requestor”) would compensate hospitals (each a “Contract Hospital”) for specimen collection, processing, and handling services (“Collection Services”) for laboratory tests furnished by the Requestor (the “Proposed Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Proposed Arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) if the requisite intent were present. This is due to both the possibility that the proposed per-patient-encounter fee would be used to induce or reward referrals to Requestor and the associated risk of improperly steering patients to Requestor.

Property Owner Protection from Tax Valuation Challenges

New legislation provides significant new protections for commercial property owners against challenges to valuation primarily by local school boards and prohibiting side agreements to avoid tax valuation changes. The Ohio Legislature has approved House Bill 126 which will go into effect July 2022 but will effectively apply to the 2023 tax valuation year.