On February 21, 2014, in Bartlow v. Costigan , the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the Employee Classification Act (ECA).
The ECA is aimed at cracking down on misclassification of employees as independent contractors in the construction industry. The ECA deems an individual performing services for a “contractor” as an employee of the contractor unless the individual can meet certain specific tests (e.g., is the individual free from the direction and control of the contractor? Is the service performed by the individual outside the usual course of services performed by the contractor?). A “contractor” is any person or firm “who engages in construction.” One of the complaints from employers about the ECA is that “construction” is broadly defined to include everything from “maintenance” and “landscaping” to more traditional construction tasks such as “remodeling,” “wrecking,” and “refurbishing.”
The Bartlow case hinged on whether or not the ECA was impermissibly vague and violated procedural due process rights. After years of back and forth in lower courts, the Supreme Court rejected all of the plaintiff’s constitutional challenges. With regard to the plaintiff’s vagueness argument, the court held that “a person of ordinary intelligence could understand the conduct prohibited under the act” and that recent amendments to the law essentially rendered the plaintiff’s other concerns moot.
Employers who were hoping the law might be repealed or modified by the state legislature or overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court need to recognize that it is here to stay. If your business is connected in any way to the construction industry, as broadly defined under the statute, you need to scrutinize your use of independent contractors to ensure it is in compliance with the ECA.