US worker misclassification bill could affect owner-ops

WASHINGTON — The trucking industry will be closely watching two pieces of legislation that could make it more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors.

Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-Ohio) Senate bill and Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s (D-Calif.) companion legislation in the House of Representatives is supposed to prevent workers from being misclassified, which could affect the trucking industry’s use of owner-operators and lease operators.

"For too long, workers have been denied vital worker safeguards — like fair labor standards, health and safety protections, and UI or workers’ compensation benefits," Brown said.

The Teamsters-backed Employee Misclassification Prevention Act would, among other things, ensure that employers keep records that reflect the accurate status of each worker as an employee or non-employee; increasing penalties on employers who misclassify their employees and are found to have violated employees’ overtime or minimum wage rights; and provide protections to workers who "are discriminated against because they have sought to be accurately classified."

The Department of Labor will monitor states’ efforts to identify misclassification, and the bill also permits the DOL and Internal Revenue Service to refer incidents of misclassification to one another.

In Canada, unions frequently challenge the status of independent owner-operators before Labor Relations Boards in the hopes of unionizing them.

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