California AB5 creates a new set of rules for California companies that work with contractors. The law changes who qualifies as a contractor and who does not. Thus, every company in California must understand the basics so they can avoid legal liability.

This article offers the world’s best overview of the law.

Image illustrating a person affected by California AB5 shows a hand holding a phone and someone looking at a computer screen.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

What Does California AB5 Do?

California AB5 came into force on January 1, 2020.

The law changes the definition of an independent contractor in California. Ultimately, the law imposes restrictions upon who can be considered an independent contractor in California.

Before this law, the law defined independent contractors based upon an “economic realities test.” Simply put, if someone behaved as an independent contractor, they could be considered an independent contractor.

This law changes that. It creates a rule about who qualifies as an independent contractor. Under California AB5, someone can only be considered a contractor if:

  • They control how they work.
  • The work done falls outside the hiring company’s usual course of business.
  • They customarily engage in an independent trade.

The second point seems to give business owners the most trouble. Many businesses hire independent contractors to provide services that their customers hire them to do. Under this law, that may no longer be possible.

While exceptions exist, the law tightens the definition of an independent contractor.

Why Everyone Cares About California AB5

Ultimately, California AB5 fundamentally changes California’s employment law.

That means that business owners and freelancers care about this law. A business that fails to comply with this law faces the real threat of worker misclassification lawsuits. These lawsuits cost a ton of money and distract from the core of running a business.

Specifically, many creative businesses that rely upon independent contractors may have to change their business models. Even if the independent contractor relationship works for all involved, the law forces some California businesses to make contractors into employees.

How Should Businesses Deal with California AB5?

The Final Word on California AB5

This law forces California businesses to look closely at how they build their teams. In the past, companies had flexibility in how they managed their working relationships. Now, much of that flexibility has been taken away.

The best thing for any business owner to do: make a plan. As with any legal matter, ignoring the law does not make it go away. By working with an attorney, you can understand how this law affects your business. Once you have this knowledge, you become empowered to make decisions that build long-term success.

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