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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [12/05/2011]
Contact Name: Sonia Melendez or Laura McGinnis
Phone Number: (202) 693-4672 or x4653
Release Number: 11-1721-DEN

US Labor Department, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment sign agreement to reduce misclassification of employees as independent contractors

WASHINGTON — Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, and Ellen Golombek, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, signed a memorandum of understanding Dec. 5 regarding the improper classification of employees as independent contractors. Following the signing, Leppink and Golombek hosted a press teleconference during which they discussed how the U.S. Department of Labor and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will embark on new efforts, guided by this memorandum, to protect the rights of employees and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice conducted by some businesses of misclassifying employees. This partnership is the 11th of its kind for the U.S. Department of Labor.

"This memorandum of understanding helps us send a message: We're standing united to end the practice of misclassifying employees," said Leppink. "This is an important step toward making sure that the American dream is still available for employees and responsible employers alike."

"Misclassification costs everyone," said Golombek. "It destabilizes the business climate by creating an unlevel playing field and causing responsible businesses to suffer unfair competition. The efforts we will be launching with the U.S. Department of Labor will promote accountability that Colorado employers and employees will welcome."

Employee misclassification is a growing problem. In 2010, the Wage and Hour Division collected nearly $4 million in back wages for minimum wage and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act that resulted from employees being misclassified as independent contractors or otherwise not treated as employees.

Business models that attempt to change, obscure or eliminate the employment relationship are not inherently illegal, unless they are used to evade compliance with federal labor law. The misclassification of employees as something else, such as independent contractors, presents a serious problem, as these employees often are denied access to critical benefits and protections — such as family and medical leave, overtime compensation, minimum wage pay and Unemployment Insurance — to which they are entitled. In addition, misclassification can create economic pressure for law-abiding business owners, who often find it difficult to compete with those who are skirting the law.Employee misclassification also generates substantial losses for state Unemployment Insurance and workers' compensation funds.

Memorandums of understanding with state government agencies arose as part of the U.S. Department of Labor's Misclassification Initiative, which was launched under the auspices of Vice President Biden's Middle Class Task Force with the goal of preventing, detecting and remedying employee misclassification. Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Utah and Washington have signed similar agreements. More information is available on the U.S. Department of Labor's misclassification Web page at http://www.dol.gov/misclassification.

The mission of the U.S. Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and ensure work-related benefits and rights. To learn more about the FLSA's requirements, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free hotline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or visit its website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.