Vox Media recently let go hundreds of California-based freelance writers and editors that used to cover sports for its SB Nation blog network. The reason? Compliance with California Assembly Bill 5 ( commonly known as AB 5). The law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020 was originally meant to target ride-share giants such as Uber and Lyft, forcing them to treat their contracted drivers as employees with the appropriate benefits.
The bill does have larger ramifications beyond drivers, however: It would also apply to writers and potentially affects other knowledge and culture workers, according to Jori Finkel. “The law already carves out many exceptions for particular professions, including accountants, real estate agents, insurance brokers, doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, private investigators, salespeople and commercial fishermen,” she explains. “In the cultural sphere, architects, graphic designers, grant writers, and fine artists are identified as exempt, as are photojournalists and journalists who contribute fewer than 35 times a year to a particular company or publication.”
The gist of AB 5
AB5 is meant to give protections to contracted workers who don’t receive the same benefits for the amount of work they do relative to regular employees, such as minimum wage, worker compensation, insurance, paid vacation and sick leave.
In 2018, the Supreme Court of California ruled to impose stricter requirements for the classification employees, which gig workers were previously excluded from. The court made a 3-part test (known as the ABC test) where employers had to prove that their workers were properly classified as independent contractors under these conditions:
- The worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact
- The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business
- The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity
This newer test doesn’t apply to jobs falling within a select number of categories. That said, even after passing ABC, the hiring party might have to demonstrate they’re classified properly under the Borello test, an older standard.
To read our take on where this bill ties into the greater shift in the nature of work, head over to our website.