The New ABCs of Independent Contractors!

The California Supreme Court has adopted a new test for determining whether a worker should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor under California law.

The Court’s opinion is found in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court , (2018) S222732. The employer in this case classified delivery drivers as employees until 2004 when the employer adopted a new policy and contractual arrangement under which all drivers were classified as independent contractors. Soon after, Dynamex’s drivers filed a class action lawsuit for violations of California labor laws. In determining whether the class action lawsuit could proceed, the Court of Appeal applied the definitions of ‘employ’, ‘employee’, and ‘employer’ that are found in the applicable IWC Wage Order and held that the drivers were employees, not independent contractors. Dynamex appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision to the California Supreme Court arguing that the Court of Appeal should have applied the multi-factor test previously adopted by the California Supreme Court and many other jurisdictions and administrative agencies.

The California Supreme Court instead adopted a new test to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor and held that Dynamex’s drivers were employees. The Court named this new test the “ABC” test. Under the ABC test, a worker is properly considered an independent contractor to whom an IWC Wage Order does not apply only if the hiring entity establishes all of the following:

(A) that 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 if fact;

(B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and

(C) that 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.

All three requirements must be satisfied for a worker to be properly classified as an independent contractor. If just one requirement is not satisfied, the worker must be classified as an employee.

The Court’s new test is a considerable change and requires all companies that engage independent contractors to reevaluate their relationships and classifications. Companies that have built their business based on a model that utilizes independent contractors may need to reevaluate their business model.

We recommend that all companies that engage independent contractors contact us to discuss worker classifications and compliance with the Court’s new test. Please contact Marla Merhab Robinson at or Kurtis Urien at for assistance with classifying workers.