California must provide workers with flexibility

By Shannon Grove, Special to CALmatters

Single mothers drive for Uber and Lyft because they are able to choose when they work, on their own terms.

They might only work while their children are at school or with a babysitter. They might want to work more or less, depending on their children’s schedule, or limit work to the most profitable times of the day.

Moms often choose to work as independent contractors because they can prioritize their families’ needs. However, that is about to change. Unfortunately, a 2018 decision by the California Supreme Court, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, puts their ability to have a flexible workplace at risk.

Under the Dynamex ruling, moms who work in between other responsibilities could lose their independence.

The Dynamex decision creates a three-part test to establish whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. The distinction between independent contractor and employee is important because it determines the work-life patterns of millions of Californians.

This new test makes it so millions of independent contractors now would have to be classified as employees. As regular employees, they would need their employer’s permission to modify a typical nine to five day.

Prior to the Dynamex decision, independent contractors and employers were able to operate with flexibility that benefited both parties.

I have proposed a solution to this career-altering decision, in Senate Bill 238, set for a hearing on Wednesday. If the bill were to become law, California’s test for employment status would match the test established by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

This bill would allow hard-working Californians to be independent contractors again and allow individuals to choose how they want to work.

According to a 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic report, 79 percent of independent contractors prefer their current work situation to traditional employment. A 2017 survey revealed that most full-time workers who left their jobs made more money as a freelancer within a year.

Unfortunately, because of the Dynamex decision, nearly 2 million Californians are at risk of losing their ability to work on their own terms and make more money.

Californians in all types of industries are affected, including barbers and hairstylists, farmers, educators, health care professionals, construction workers, and artists.

Many college students work between classes to help pay their bills. Unfortunately, the Dynamex decision will disproportionately affect them and other younger workers.

Instead of interpreting the law, the California Supreme Court simply re-wrote it. Creating laws is a job given to the California Legislature, which is why good policy is necessary to fix this bad court decision.

Our economy and workforce are transforming, especially in California. We cannot restrict workplace flexibility with bad court rulings. Instead, we need to ensure Californians have the opportunity to choose the terms on which they work.

Senate Bill 238 is a necessary first step to protect workers’ rights and freedom.

Shannon Grove is Senate Republican Leader and represents Senate District 16 in Kern, Tulare and San Bernardino counties. [email protected] She wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

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