Client Alerts, News Articles & Blog Posts

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.

Bankruptcy Law Changes - 2020 Recap And What To Expect In 2021

In a year of health challenges and financial distress to many individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic, the year 2020 brought some significant changes to the bankruptcy laws. Some of these changes were in place prior to the pandemic; others were a direct response to the pandemic with the goal of helping struggling businesses and individuals. Ahead, we can likely expect further changes to the Bankruptcy Code with the incoming Congress.

UPDATE - SBA Releases Rules and Guidance for Second Round PPP Funding

Late yesterday (January 6, 2021), the U.S. Small Business Administration released rules and guidance for businesses wishing to take part in the long awaited second round of Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) funding. As most businesses are aware, the rules governing PPP loans have been updated as part of The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act (“Act”). The Act was just one section of the massive 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act that was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President on December 27, 2020. To combat the ongoing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Act generally provides (a) first time PPP loans for businesses that did not obtain a loan in the first instance, (b) PPP second draw loans for businesses that already obtained a loan but need additional funding, and (c) additional funding for businesses that returned their first PPP loan or did not get the full amount for which they qualified.

UPDATE - Vaccine Policy Considerations for Employers

If you read our post from November, you’re already an informed employer. This first post of 2021 is to share good news, give a few updates, and answer some other common questions. Q: What’s the Good News? First, the EEOC confirmed that employers may require employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Second, polling indicates that the number of Americans who said they will receive a vaccine has increased from around 63% to over 71%. The number of Americans who are strongly opposed to a vaccine is about 27%. Third, initial returns show that the efficacy rate for certain vaccines is as high as 95% for some at-risk recipients.

Changes to FFCRA Paid Leave: Congress’ Revisions to Employment COVID-19 Leave Benefits Signals the Light is at the End of the Tunnel

Late in the evening on December 27th, President Trump signed into law the government’s $900 billion COVID-19 relief package (the “Stimulus Bill”). Among other economic stimulus benefits, the Stimulus Bill contains the $600 stimulus checks that will be issued to eligible individuals as well as, relevantly, changes to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). The FFCRA was implemented in April 2020 and provided benefits to individuals who missed work as a result of an actual or suspected COVID-19 illness or to care for a child when their school or childcare service was closed because of COVID-19. Importantly, the Stimulus Bill extends eligibility for employer payroll tax refunds for leave payments made to employees on or before March 31, 2021 under the FFCRA, signaling to the American people that Congress believes many of the employed public will be vaccinated by this time, the light at the end of the tunnel. However, the Stimulus Bill does contain a caveat that employers are no longer required to provide FFCRA leave benefits after December 31, 2020, but if they do, they will receive the payroll tax credits, up to the maximums provided in the FFCRA, for payments made prior to April 1, 2021. Below we provide a list of questions and answers we received to date following the passage of the Stimulus Bill. We expect the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) to issue additional questions and answers as the Stimulus Bill is implemented, and we will update this Client Alert as these are received.

Healthcare Speaker Programs: New OIG Alert

In a rare Special Fraud Alert issued on November 16, 2020 (the “Alert”), the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) urged companies who host speaker programs to reassess their programs in light of the “inherent risks” associated with these activities. The Alert reports that, in the last three years, drug and device companies have reported paying nearly $2 billion to health care professionals for speaker-related services.