Labor Board, Reversing Trump-Era Ruling, Widens Definition of Employee

In 2019, when the board was controlled by appointees of President Donald J. Trump, it elevated one consideration — workers’ chances to make more money based on their business savvy, often described as “entrepreneurial opportunity” — above the others. It concluded that such opportunities should be a key tiebreaker when some factors pointed to contractor status and others indicated employment.

In its decision in 2019, the board said that a ruling during the Obama administration had improperly subordinated the question of moneymaking opportunities.

That 2019 ruling appeared to be a victory for gig companies like Uber and Lyft, whose supporters have argued that ride-share drivers should be considered contractors in part because of the opportunities they have for potential profit — say, by determining which neighborhoods to work in.

The latest decision returned the board to the standard laid out in the Obama era, explicitly rejecting the elevation of entrepreneurial opportunity above other factors.

The turnabout was criticized on Tuesday by businesses that rely heavily on contractors. In a statement, Evan Armstrong, chair of the Coalition for Workforce Innovation, which represents companies like Uber and Lyft as well as industry trade groups, said that the ruling “decreases clarity and threatens the flexible independent model that benefits workers, consumers, entrepreneurs, businesses and the overall economy.”

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