“If this had been something that we just caught wind of with six months or three months to spare, we would have gone under for sure.”
Just over a month and a half after Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) went into effect in California on Jan. 1, Liz Lisle, managing director of Berkeley, Calif.’s Shotgun Players, considers her company lucky. AB 5, California’s new bill aimed at reining in employers who incorrectly or wrongfully classify workers as independent contractors, has sent shockwaves through the California theatre community, especially small, non-Equity companies.
The law stipulates that except in cases where employers can meet a certain set of requirements, everyone who works with them must be classified as employees, entitling them all minimum wage under California’s labor laws, as well as healthcare and workers compensation. The bill is mostly aimed at tech companies who take advantage of workers making a living in the “gig economy,” in particular Uber and Lyft drivers, for example, who may put in part- or full-time hours (or more) but are paid only by the drive, since they’re technically independent contractors. This deprives them of the same compensation and protections as someone who may work the same number of hours as an employee.