John O'Connor
John O’Connor

To be clear, the Department of Labor is not out to make the lives of senior living operators miserable. But some days, it can sure feel that way.

This week had one of those days.

Tuesday’s release of a final rule on worker classification standards surely will trigger many a call to HR for a policy rewrite. And perhaps to legal counsel for advice on how to react.

According to federal regulators, the updated standards promise to bring clarity to the often murky distinction between independent contractors and employees.

Clearly, regulators feel that too many senior living operators — and employers in general, for that matter — are using the “independent” label to identify workers who should rightfully be considered employees.

Specifically, the new rule adjusts the method of analysis and adds criteria for determining which bucket a worker should be placed into.

The Labor Department asserts that the new rule will take a more “holistic” approach that encompasses additional factors and weighs them more evenly in the decision-making process.

But as so often is the case, operators are pushing back against an official narrative that seems to promise help while ignoring burdens.

“We are concerned that the rule, coupled with other proposed federal regulations, will only serve to exacerbate the workforce shortage and wipe out some of the recent modest gains communities have made in recruiting individuals to help care for our seniors,” Argentum Senior Vice President of Public Policy Maggie Elehwany told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Additionally, the changes may place greater legal and financial burdens on senior living operators, suggested Gerald Maatman Jr., partner and chair of the class action practice group at legal firm Duane Morris.

Maatman suggests that implementation of the rule may well prompt more wage and hour misclassification class action litigation in the sector.

Remember that famous line: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you”?

I guess you could say it took on a whole new meaning this week. Or that at the very least, the old meaning was freshened up.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.

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