Delaware Legislation Proposes to Criminalize Employment Law

construction-man-in-hard-hat-thumbDelaware employers who’ve not heard of “The Construction Industry Independent Contractor Act” should pay close attention to this post.  Every business with employees working in Delaware should be aware of this bill, HB 468, introduced yesterday in the Delaware General Assembly, and the many repercussions it could cause. 


Proposed Bill Would Target Delaware Employers in the Construction Industry

“The Construction Industry Independent Contractors Act,” apparently is on the fast track for approval at the state legislative level.  Although its name indicates that it reaches construction-industry employers, the proposed bill has potential implications for all employers.

In short, the bill purports to penalize employers who improperly classify construction employees as independent contractors.

In essence, it provides that all construction industry workers are “deemed to be” employees unless:

  1. the workers are “free from control or direction;”
  2. the work is “outside” the employer’s usual business; and
  3. the person is “customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business.”

Employers Could Face Jail Time for Misclassification

An employer who fails to “properly classify” a person as an employee, even unwittingly, is subject to fines and imprisonment for up to 90 days. If done knowingly, the fine can be as much as $10,000 and the prison term as much as 6 months. In addition, the Secretary of Labor can impose administrative penalties, debar the employer from state projects, and even require the employer to cease operations.  And as if those measures aren’t enough, an individual who claims to be the victim of misclassification, or his or her union, can bring a civil action for damages, including a class action.

This draconian legislation, if enacted, would expose construction industry employers to financial ruin. Class action lawsuits are invited, and the language is constructed in such a way that virtually every person who works on a construction project would be viewed as an employee.

The Potential Consequences of the Independent Contractors Act

But why stop with construction employers? The same rationale would seem to be applicable generally to employers, so the next step would seem to be to expand the scope of the legislation to cover all employers. Interested businesses and business associations beware – this bill must be stopped!

The full text of the bill can be seen at the Delaware General Assembly website.