Labor & Employment

Independent Contractor Compliance

Creating customized and sustainable independent contractor arrangements and effectively defending independent contractor misclassification claims.

Meet the team

Locke Lord’s Independent Contractor Misclassification and Compliance team helps companies avoid, minimize and defeat litigation challenges to the use of independent contractors and other contingent workers. Our interdisciplinary team is comprised of labor and employment, employee benefits, tax, and class and collective action lawyers. They have long been dedicated not only to advising businesses how to enhance compliance with federal and state independent contractor laws but also to defend companies facing misclassification audits and proceedings by state workforce agencies and the IRS as well as an ever-increasing number of class and collective actions. A list of our representative engagements can be found here.

Few industries are immune from legal challenges predicated on the use of independent contractors. Our lawyers have represented companies of all sizes in independent contractor compliance and misclassification matters in dozens of diverse industries operating in almost every state, including the companies engaged in the on-demand gig economy, which have made increasing use of workers paid on a Form 1099 basis.

Our Blog and National Reputation

Members of our team publish the only legal blog in the country dedicated to publishing original content on the subject of independent contractor misclassification and compliance. This blog, part of the Locke Lord suite of legal blogs, was launched in 2010. It is noted for its comprehensive treatment of key legal developments and takeaways and includes a monthly update of court decisions, administrative initiatives and legislative developments in this important niche area of the law. Our blog has been recognized as the go-to source for C-suite executives and legal professionals seeking up-to-date information, analyses and practical suggestions for businesses utilizing independent contractors in a way that maximizes compliance with independent contractor laws.

Locke Lord team members have a national reputation for our work in this area of the law. Team members have published more than four dozen articles and presented more than two dozen public seminars, webinars and presentations on the topic, and are regularly quoted in national and local print and online media.

How We Approach Independent Contractor Compliance

Through years of experience, our lawyers have developed an approach to independent contractor compliance focused on crafting customized and sustainable solutions to help organizations continue to utilize independent contractors and at the same time minimize the likelihood of misclassification liability.

Our Locke Lord team members created a state-of-the-art process and methods that allow us to restructure, re-document and re-implement independent contractor relationships without altering a company’s business model or strategies. We generally avoid the use of one-size-fits-all solutions that tend generally to be ill-fitting. We counsel clients how to maximize compliance by focusing less on the “don’ts” and more on the “do’s.”

The tests for independent contractor status vary widely from state to state and at the federal level, and currently are in flux. New laws, such as those in California, require creative means to elevate compliance. We draw on an array of solutions developed over the years with clients in the same industry or using similar business models.

Our Depth of Experience Defending Independent Contractor Misclassification Cases

Many of our independent contractor compliance team members are litigators deeply experienced in defending organizations, both large and small, facing independent contractor claims brought in judicial or administrative proceedings, audits by governmental agencies, and private class and collective actions in court.

Plaintiffs asserting these claims invoke an array of federal and state laws covering overtime and minimum wage, expense reimbursement, employee benefits, criminal background checks, and wage payment and wage notice laws. Our approach to defending misclassification cases is to deploy many of the same tools we use to enhance compliance, reformulated to maximize success in the litigation arena.

Independent contractor misclassification cases oftentimes arise in the context of claims for unemployment compensation and workers' compensation benefits. State workforce agencies have been extremely aggressive in seeking to turn a single claim for benefits into audits or mini-class actions where decisions as to one claimant can be applied to all similarly situated workers. For this reason alone, many of our clients ask us to vigorously defend these claims, and we have done so before workforce agencies around the country.