workers

Defining ‘Contractor’ Status Would Provide Some Relief for Workers

A new rule proposed by the Department of Labor could bring partial relief to businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout. It could also help millions of workers who are straining to maintain their livelihoods or attempting to find new ones.

For the first time in more than 80 years since the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act, a new proposed rule seeks to provide clarity on the definition of an “independent contractor” for general industry.

>>> What’s the best way for America to reopen and return to business? The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, a project of The Heritage Foundation, assembled America’s top thinkers to figure that out. So far, it has made more than 260 recommendations. Learn more here.

This is important because it can be difficult for businesses to differentiate between employers and contractors, and extremely costly if they make the wrong determination.

As Labor Department Secretary Eugene Scalia noted, “Employers and workers looking for guidance have had to parse the sometimes-divergent decisions of the federal courts of appeals, and opinion letters the Labor Department issues occasionally without public notice or input.”

Ambiguity about how to classify workers can result in high administrative costs and cause fear and uncertainty for employers who risk costly lawsuits that could destroy their entire business if they make the wrong determination.

Fines and penalties for misclassifying workers can include back payroll tax payments, over 40% of the misclassified workers’ wages for up to three years, and, if the misclassification is determined to be intentional, up to $500,000 in fines and a year in prison.

It’s not just a difference in payments that separates employees from contractors. Employers could be on the hook for many other violations, such as: not properly documenting a worker’s hours, neglecting to

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Care homes in England to name relatives as key workers to allow visits

Relatives of care home residents in England are to be designated as key workers so they can be tested regularly for Covid-19 and continue to visit loved ones.



Photograph: Robin Weaver/Alamy


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Robin Weaver/Alamy

The plans, initially a pilot project, with no details about how they would be rolled out, were announced to MPs on Tuesday by the care minister, Helen Whately. They are a win for families and charities that have been calling for months for relatives to be given the same key worker status as staff.

Along with testing, the single designated relative would be trained in the use of PPE, she said, although she was unable to give a date for when the pilot would begin.

Organisations including Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society have been calling for such a move, arguing in a letter to the government in July that the care given by family members was essential to dementia patients’ wellbeing. Social distancing restrictions had contributed to a “hidden catastrophe” in care homes, which had been closed to non-essential visitors since March, they said.

Whately has been challenged at the science and technology committee and health and social care committee over mistakes and mishandling that led to a huge Covid-19 death toll in care homes this year.

Jeremy Hunt, the former Conservative health minister who chaired the sitting, put it to her that care homes should have been banned from taking transfers from hospitals where tests were unavailable, or if it had not been possible to quarantine the person, as was the case in Germany.

“I know it’s very easy to say things with hindsight, but looking back we should have done that here, shouldn’t we?” he asked.

She replied that this would not happen now, and that the Department for Health had

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Judge Barrett’s Record: Siding With Businesses Over Workers

With the opening statements and the grandstanding now over, today the nomination hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court begin in earnest, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee launch into their questioning. Supreme Court confirmation hearings have become a high-level version of dodgeball, where nominees work tirelessly to evince no opinion on any legal matter whatsoever, using the excuse that the topic might come up before the Court in the future, and the nominee wouldn’t want to prejudge any decision.

In this case, both Barrett’s record and the entire process can be prejudged. Though she only has three years on the federal bench, Barrett has nearly two decades’ worth of law review writing from her time as a professor at Notre Dame. Everyone knows she has been installed to deliver victories on long-sought, ideologically conservative priorities, from eliminating the right to choose an abortion to the overturning of a century of labor law jurisprudence. And everyone knows conservative senators will vote in lockstep to get Barrett on the Court to commence this work. The only drama lies in whether enough of them are actually available to complete the task before the general election.

More from David Dayen

Still, I subscribe to the school of thought that what a judicial nominee believes actually matters when confirming them to the highest court in the land. And even Barrett’s short stint as a judge has yielded a number of revealing opinions that all point to a general bias. As the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law puts it in a report released today on the Barrett record, “she is predisposed to side with law enforcement at the expense of defendants’ constitutional rights, and with employers and business interests in disputes with

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Airlines Used Cares Act Funds To Pay Workers. Airline Contractors Took Funds And Let Workers Go, Report Says

In the months after Congress allocated of hundreds of millions of dollars to keep airline industry employees working, passenger airlines applied for shares of that money and then then laid off less than 1% of their workers, until the funding ran out.

Airline contractors similarly applied for money and then laid off about 58,000 people, about 35% of their workers, a new report says.

“Contrary to congressional intent, Treasury permitted aviation contractors to lay off thousands of workers and receive full payroll support calculated based on the companies’ pre-pandemic workforce,” according to a report, released Friday by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

The report, “Unnecessary Costs: How the Trump Administration Allowed Thousands of Aviation Workers to Lose Their Jobs,” was issued by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

It blasted both the slow pace of work by the Treasury Department and airport contractors’ allocation of the funds they received.

“This staff report documents how the Department of the Treasury’s implementation of the Payroll Support Program (PSP) caused thousands of workers at aviation contractors to lose their jobs,” said the introduction to the report.

“Documents uncovered during the Select Subcommittee’s investigation show that aviation contractors sought to avoid ‘unnecessary costs’ by terminating employees before executing PSP agreements,” the introduction continued.

In comparison with passenger airlines, “Aviation contractors reported conducting 57,833 layoffs and furloughs prior to applying for PSP assistance—more than 17 times the number reported by passenger air carriers,” the report said.

The Cares Act was approved by Congress on March 27. The report makes a distinction between the 57,833 layoffs and furloughs before PSP applications were filed under the act, and the16,655 layoffs between

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Corona-fied: Employers are now spying on remote workers in their homes

The future of work is here, ushered in by a global pandemic. But is it turning employment into a Worker’s Paradise of working at home? Or more of a Big Brother panopticon?

Disturbing increases in the use of digital surveillance technologies by employers to monitor their remote workers are raising alarm bells. With the number of remote workers surging as a result of the pandemic—42 percent of U.S. workers are now doing their jobs from their kitchens, living rooms, and home offices—a number of employers have begun requiring their workers to download spying software to their laptops and smartphones. The goal is for businesses to monitor what their remote employees do all day, to track job performance and productivity, and to reduce so-called “cyber-slacking.”

Business software products from Hubstaff, which tracks a worker’s mouse movements, keyboard strokes, webpages visited, email, file transfers and applications used, are surging in sales. So are sales for TSheets, which workers download to their smartphones so that employers can track their location. Another product, called Time Doctor, “downloads videos of employees’ screens” and uses “a computer’s webcam to take a picture of the employee every 10 minutes,” NPR reports. One employee told NPR, “If you’re idle for a few minutes, if you go to the bathroom or… [to the kitchen], a pop-up will come up and it’ll say, ‘You have 60 seconds to start working again or we’re going to pause your time.'”

Another system, InterGuard, can be secretly installed on workers’ computers. The Washington Post reports that it “creates a minute-by-minute timeline of every app and website they view, categorizing each as ‘productive’ or ‘unproductive’ and ranking workers by their ‘productivity score.'” Other employers are using a lower-tech approach, requiring workers to stay logged in to a teleconference service like Zoom all day so

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