Employers across the U.S. were troubled by the sub-regulatory guidance issued by the DOL in 2015 and 2016 on independent contractors and joint employment. Today, the DOL announced the withdrawal of that guidance (Administrator’s Interpretations No. 2015-01 (July 15, 2015, on independent contractors) and No. 2016-01 (Jan. 20, 2016, on joint employment)).
As you may recall, the DOL began issuing Administrator’s Interpretations– broad pronouncements of the agency’s views on issues–in 2010, in a significant departure from its prior practice of issuing guidance in the form of regulations (generally subject to public notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures) and opinion letters (which were responsive to specific fact patterns submitted by the public, and usually characterized as limited to the specific facts presented). Critics of the Administrator’s Interpretations pointed to the ways in which they departed from the case law, statutes, and regulations on their subjects. And many businesses viewed them as yet another way the Obama-era federal agencies were circumventing the traditional rulemaking process in furtherance of a pro-worker agenda.
This is the first major sign that the Trump DOL–with a Secretary of Labor now in place–intends to undo some of the activism of the prior administration.
Stay tuned for additional commentary on this major development.