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ABC Test California
(3 Main Criteria Legally Defined)

The ABC test is used to determine whether a California worker is classified as an employee or an independent contractor. Employees are entitled to legal protections under state and federal employment law (i.e. overtime pay, minimum wage, employee benefits), whereas independent contractors are not.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What are the Criteria for the ABC Test?

A worker is classified as an employee and not an independent contractor under the California ABC test unless the hiring entity satisfies the following conditions:

  • The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
  • The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

Why is it Called the ABC Test?

The ABC test got its name from the 3 interlocking elements of the test—parts (A), (B), and (C). It establishes a presumption that an individual performing services for an employer is an employee, not an independent contractor unless the employer can establish the 3 conditions.

Freedom from Employer's Control

One of the main factors in the ABC test is the amount of control that the employer has over the worker. The more control that is exerted, the more likely the worker is an employee. However, the hiring entity doesn't need to control the precise manner or details of the work. It is up to the hiring entity to demonstrate that it is not exerting enough control to make the worker an employee.

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Which Other States Have the ABC Test?

In addition to California, the following states use the ABC test to determine if a worker is an independent contractor or an employee:

  1. Alaska
  2. Connecticut
  3. Delaware
  4. District of Columbia
  5. Hawaii
  6. Illinois
  7. Indiana
  8. Louisiana
  9. Maine
  10. Maryland
  11. Massachusetts
  12. Nebraska
  13. Nevada
  14. New Hampshire
  15. New Jersey
  16. New Mexico
  17. Vermont
  18. Washington
  19. West Virginia

Why Do Employers Use Independent Contractors?

Employers use independent contractors because it allows them to avoid expenses associated with employees such as taxes, training, promotions, overtime, benefits, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, FMLA leave, and 401K. Additionally, employers can supplement their employee workforce by hiring someone who has the necessary experience to hit the ground running.

However, employing independent contractors becomes a problem when employers start to over-rely on them and, over time, begin to treat them as employees. When this occurs, problems arise for the company despite any good intentions on their part or the part of the contractor.

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What Is the ABC Test in California?

The ABC Test in California is a legal standard used to determine whether a worker is classified as an independent contractor or an employee. It consists of three criteria that must be met for a worker to be considered an independent contractor.

When Was the ABC Test Implemented in California?

The ABC Test was implemented in California through Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which was signed into law in 2019 and went into effect on January 1, 2020.

How Does the ABC Test Impact Gig Economy Workers?

The ABC Test impacts gig economy workers, such as rideshare drivers and delivery workers, by making it more challenging for companies to classify them as independent contractors rather than employees.

What Should I Do if I Believe I Am Misclassified Under the ABC Test?

If you believe you are misclassified as an independent contractor, you should consult with an employment attorney to evaluate your case and explore your legal options for reclassification and potential compensation.

Who Is Exempt From the ABC Test in California?

Various licensed professionals are exempt from the ABC test in California. This includes careers that require licensure, such as medical professionals. For example, doctors, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists have specific licensing and educational requirements that exempt them from the ABC test.

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