Employee or Independent Contractor Classification under the Fair Labor Standards Act Effective March 11, 2024

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



worker classificationThe U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has modified the Wage and Hour Division Regulations to replace its 2021 analysis for determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor (Final Rule). The previous test gave greater weight to control and opportunities for profit and loss.

Effective March 11, 2024, under the Final Rule the employee or independent contractor classification determination will focus on the economic realities of the worker’s relationship and whether the worker is either economically dependent on the potential employer for work or is in business for himself. In short, is the worker dependent upon the business to which it renders services for work?

Economic dependence does not focus on the amount of income the worker earns, but rather whether the worker has other sources of income from other customers. To determine economic dependence, the DOL assesses seven factors and conducts a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis. No one factor carries more weight. The DOL looks at the working relationship, the workplace, and the particular industry.

Under the Final Rule, Section 795.105, DOL, uses the following tools and/or factors in its determination: Continue reading »

What to Do If You Might Have Been Ineligible for the Employee Retention Tax Credit Claim

Jaime L. Curry

By Jaime L. Curry



covid-19 tax creditsThe COVID-19 Pandemic was cause for many new programs to be created by the U.S. government to keep businesses afloat and employees retained in unprecedented times. One of these programs was the Employee Retention Tax Credit (“ERC”) which incentivized employers to retain employees while business was down. The program was available regardless of the size of the employer and included tax-exempt organizations.

To be eligible for the ERC, employers had to (1) be either fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID during the calendar quarter or (2) have gross receipts below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019.

The IRS began sending out letters in December 2023 to more than 20,000 taxpayers who received disallowed ERC claims. Letter 105 C, Claim Disallowed is being sent to a first group of taxpayers because the entities either (1) did not exist during the eligibility period (March 13, 2020, through December 31, 2021), or (2) did not have paid employees during the ERC’s applicable time period (ERC is a credit against qualified wages).

Letter 105 is being sent out to taxpayers prior to payment in an effort by the IRS to help ineligible taxpayers avoid audits, repayments, and penalties. Many employers were encouraged to file ERC claims by “promoters” who received monetary commissions based on approval. Issuance of a disallowance letter prevents promoters from receiving funds to which they are not entitled. Continue reading »

Planning for the Incapacity or Death of a Business Owner

Jaime L. Curry

By Jaime L. Curry



are you readyAs a business owner, you are used to making plans. You have had to make plans since day one – plans to get your business off the ground, plans to increase inventory, plans to take on employees. . . plans, plans, plans. One plan that some business owners don’t think about until it’s too late is what happens to their business at the death of one of the owners.

Not planning is, in fact, a plan. If no documents are in place to transfer ownership at death, the deceased owner’s probate estate is the recipient of the business interests and the business is tied up in probate court. How can you avoid this happening to your business?

First, check your corporate governance documents. Depending on the type of entity you own, this could be your operating agreement, shareholder agreement, bylaws, or a buy-sell agreement. These documents could outline any restrictions on the transfer of ownership interests. Some of the more common transfer restrictions are to other members or shareholders, revocable trusts, or family members.

Typically, two of the simpler ways to transfer ownership interest in an entity is to assign the interest during the owner’s life to a revocable trust or, alternatively, assign the interest at the death of the owner to the owner’s trust. The terms of the trust can then control where the ownership goes, how it gets to the desired beneficiaries, and who is in charge. Make sure to update operating agreements or bylaws to reflect those changes any time an assignment of ownership occurs. Assignments of ownership interests at death can also be made to other individuals provided the terms of the entity’s operating agreement or bylaws allow for this transfer. Continue reading »

Your Business and the ADA: Ensuring Accessibility and Inclusion

David R. Bohm

By David R. Bohm



handicap parkingPart 2 of 2-Part Series on Accessibility and Accommodation

It is important for small businesses to be aware of and comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has two sections that can potentially impact small businesses: Title I and Title III.

Title I of the ADA applies to businesses with 15 or more employees (or 6 or more employees under the Missouri Human Rights Act) and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. This means making modifications or adjustments to the work environment that enable employees to perform their job duties which could include providing assistive devices, modifying work schedules, or allowing telecommuting.

Title III applies to all businesses, regardless of their size, and requires them to make their physical premises accessible to individuals with disabilities. A key aspect is the removal of architectural barriers that may hinder accessibility and ensuring that physical structures are designed and constructed in a way that accommodates individuals with disabilities. Elements such as entrances, parking spaces, ramps, doorways, hallways, and restrooms must be accessible to people with mobility impairments.

When constructing a new building or making alterations or renovations to an existing building, businesses are generally required to comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design adopted by the Department of Justice in 2010. However, even if a business is not engaged in construction or renovation, they still have an obligation to make alterations to their premises to provide access if it is “reasonably achievable.” The term “reasonably achievable” has not been precisely defined, but courts consider factors such as the nature and cost of barrier removal, the business’ financial resources, technical difficulties, the number of employees and visitors, safety requirements, and the impact on business operations. Continue reading »

Clicking Towards Disaster: The Cost of ADA Non-Compliant Websites

David R. Bohm

By David R. Bohm



Authored by David R. Bohm with assistance from Sarah L. Ayers, contributor

Part 1 of 2-Part Series on Accessibility and Accommodation (Updated July 2023)

website accessibility

Business websites are an invaluable tool for businesses to reach and grow their customer base. Entire businesses now operate completely online. Interactive websites that conduct transactions with consumers must be accessible by anyone, including those with hearing or vision disabilities. Non-compliant websites violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations. A business could be found liable if its website is not accessible.

To be ADA compliant, the website should comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG addresses accessibility issues such as contrasts, subtitles, and compatibility with screen reader equipment. This area of law is still developing. Federal courts are split as to whether Title III applies to businesses with no physical location. The Justice Department has not developed exact criteria for accessibility but has released various settlement agreements giving business owners some insights into ADA requirements.

When Rite Aid’s vaccine appointment portal was found to be inaccessible to individuals with disabilities, the company settled with the Justice Department. The issues were: (1) images, buttons, links, headings, and form fields that were either unlabeled or inaccurate, (2) pop-up windows and error messages that were not reported to screen readers, (3) tables that were missing information and proper mark-ups, (4) screen contrasts, and (5) navigation of the screen without a mouse. According to the settlement agreement, compliance is determined by “…whether individuals with disabilities have full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations offered.” Rite Aid agreed to continuously use an accessibility testing tool, address any barriers found within 15 days, provide annual training to employees on how to make its website accessible, and retain an outside website accessibility consultant. Continue reading »

Why Your Business Needs Trademarks: Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



registered trademarkAuthored by Ruth Binger with assistance from Sarah L. Ayers, contributor

Trademarks are a vital aspect of intellectual property, offering unique proprietary rights with several advantages. Unlike other forms of property, a brand or trademark can remain valuable indefinitely with proper care. In fact, trademarks tend to increase in value with use. They can be sold or licensed, making them reasonably liquid assets. Additionally, trademarks serve as powerful marketing shortcuts, influencing consumer purchasing decisions for a company’s goods or services.

However, there are misconceptions surrounding the protection trademarks provide. Incorporating, qualifying to do business, or reserving the business name with various Secretary of State offices provides limited brand name protection. The right to exclude others from using a similar name on goods and services is not automatically granted. Conduct a thorough trademark search of any new corporation or LLC name used to identify a product or service to determine the availability of a mark for your specific purposes and ensure the name does not infringe on another entity’s trademark.

Trademark registration is not mandatory to establish a protectable and exclusive right to a mark. Registered trademark remedies are injunctions and damages, but often the only remedy for an unregistered mark is an injunction. Under common law, trademark rights can be obtained within a specific geographic area of use. State trademark registration does not offer protection beyond these rights. Continue reading »

NLRB Decision Places Limits on Non-Disparagement Provisions in Severance Agreements

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



severance agreementAuthored by Katherine M. Flett with assistance from Kristina M. Stevenson, contributor

Non-disparagement clauses have historically been a common element of severance agreements and aim to protect an employer’s name from negative commentary by a former employee to others. The severance agreement is a contract that outlines the compensation and benefits an employee will receive in exchange for the release of any and all employee claims against the employer arising out of the employment relationship.

Confidentiality clauses limiting an employee’s right to disclose the terms of a severance agreement have also been a common element of severance agreements.

A recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision has placed a warning sign on all employment severance agreements. Retroactively, the NLRB’s decision in McLaren Macomb may invalidate non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses in severance agreements both before and after February 21, 2023. Generally, employers are now prohibited from proffering severance agreements that require non-supervisory employees to broadly waive their rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in exchange for severance benefits.

Under the NLRA, Section 7 and Section 8(a)(1) work together to protect an employee’s right to unionize, assist labor organizations, and engage in concerted activities. Employers may not interfere with the Section 7 rights of their employees. To assist in understanding how non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses interfere with Section 7 rights, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a memorandum providing guidance for the applicability of the McLaren Macomb decision.

Five Major Takeaways from the McLaren Macomb Decision Continue reading »

Contracts: The Basics

Michael J. McKitrick

By Michael J. McKitrick



contractUnderstanding contracts is essential for a small business. Contracts are the basic building block of our economy and the legal principles of contract formation and enforcement go back centuries but are still in effect today.

Contracts require a “meeting of the minds” between the contracting parties and are enforceable in our courts. Contracts need to be clear and unambiguous and should be in writing and signed by the parties. In certain cases, oral contracts are enforceable but without a writing the terms are very hard to prove. For this reason, business contracts should always be in writing. The basic principle of contract interpretation by the courts is to determine what is the intention of the parties as determined by the four corners of the written document. Deals may be sealed with a handshake but fade away without a written document.

Contracts also require consideration to be enforceable. Consideration means that the parties exchange mutual promises or that one party agrees to provide a benefit to the other party or agrees to accept a detriment in consideration for the contract. A promise to make a gift is not enforceable because the receiving party has made no promise, payment or other consideration to the gifting party.

Under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), contracts can be signed electronically by using systems such as DocuSign as long as the parties intend to sign and do business electronically and keep a record that can be stored and reproduced as a copy. All states have adopted the UETA, including Missouri (codified at Section 432.200 RS MO 2003). Electronic contracts are just as enforceable as traditional signed contracts. Thus, it is important to note that the same basic principles of contract formation, interpretation and rules of enforcement apply to contracts in electronic or digital form. Continue reading »

Illinois Passes Expansive Paid Leave Legislation: The Paid Leave for All Workers Act

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



Authored by Ruth Binger with assistance from Sarah L. Ayers

fmla paid leaveOne of the most expansive paid leave laws in the nation has passed in Illinois. When the “Paid Leave for All Workers Act” goes into effect on January 1, 2024, Illinois will be one of only a few states, including Maine and Nevada, that require employers to offer paid leave for any reason or no reason at all.

Who Does the New Law Apply To?

The Paid Leave for All Workers Act applies to all individuals and public and private entities that employ at least one person in the state of Illinois. However, federal government employers, school districts organized under the Illinois school code, park districts organized under the Illinois school code, and employers who have already started to allocate sick leave under the Chicago or Cook County Ordinance are exempt.

“Employees” are broadly defined as “[a]ny individual permitted to work by an employer in an occupation.” The new law applies to in-state employees and remote employees based in Illinois who work 40 or more hours in Illinois within a 12-month period.

Under the Paid Leave for All Workers Act, domestic workers are considered employees, but the following workers are not:

  • Independent contractors,
  • Workers who meet the definition of employee under the Federal Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act or Railway Labor Act,
  • College or university students who work part-time at the institution they attend, and
  • Short-term employees who work for an “institution of higher learning” for less than two consecutive calendar quarters and do not have an expectation to be rehired.

Another important note is that individual employees cannot waive their rights under the Paid Leave for All Workers Act. However, bargaining unit employees can waive the right in a “bona fide collective bargaining agreement” if it is explicitly stated in “clear and unambiguous terms” within the agreement. Employers who have union employees are required to implement the Paid Leave for All Workers Act, even if it is inconsistent with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, if the bargaining agreement is not set to expire for several years.

What Does the New Law Require? Continue reading »

What Businesses Should Keep In Mind When Terminating an Employee

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



termination letterRuth Binger was asked a few employment law questions by Ron Ameln, editor of St. Louis Small Business Monthly. Click here to see the first question about non-compete agreements and Ruth’s response. 

Firing an employee is always tricky. What are some things owners need to keep in mind if they let an employee go?

It is always hard to fire an employee. Employees strike back in a myriad of ways, some fair and some not so fair, such as filing a discrimination claim with the Missouri Human Rights Commission or the EEOC, complaining bitterly on the Glassdoor website, or, absent a non-compete, going to work for your competition or soliciting your employees and customers.

Positive actions include offering a severance agreement which includes a non-compete. Some employers make introductions to other employers where the fit might be better. This works well if the employee is not being let go because of performance but because of a lack of work or occupying the wrong seat on the bus. You could also put the employee on paid or unpaid leave for 3-6 months until the employee finds a job. It is easier to find a job if you have a job.

How important is it to have the proper documentation before firing an employee? Continue reading »

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