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August 7, 2012
Washington Supreme Court clarifies standard for classification of workers as employees or independent contractors under the Minimum Wage Act
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Recently, in the case of Anfinson, et al v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., the Washington Supreme Court considered the standard for classifying workers as employees or independent contractors under the Washington Minimum Wage Act (“MWA”), RCW 49.46.

Randy Anfinson and a number of current and former FedEx delivery drivers sued FedEx for unpaid overtime wages, claiming that they were “employees”, and therefore entitled to overtime wages under the MWA.  FedEx countered that the drivers were independent contractors not entitled to overtime wages. 

The parties disagreed on the correct standard to distinguish employees from independent contractors under the MWA.  FedEx argued that the common law “right-to-control” test governs the analysis, while the drivers contended that the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) “economic-dependence” test controls.  In holding that the economic-dependence test is the proper standard for determining if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the MWA, the court observed that the MWA was based on the FLSA, and that federal courts interpreting the FLSA have rejected the right-to-control test for determining employee status under the FLSA.  Consequently, the court held that the definition of “employee” in the MWA (RCW 49.46.010(3)), incorporates the economic-dependence test developed by the federal courts in interpreting the FLSA.  In particular, the court held:  “The relevant inquiry is ‘whether, as a matter of economic reality, the worker is economically dependent upon the alleged employer or is instead in business for himself.’” (emphasis added).

In light of this ruling, Washington employers should consider reviewing their classification of workers as independent contractors in order to better protect themselves from potential claims under the MWA.  Eisenhower’s Employment Law Practice Group stands ready to assist your business with such an evaluation.  If you would like to discuss this or other employment issues with an Eisenhower lawyer, click here


 

 

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