Welp, ACL is being investigated by the California Dept of Industrial Relations

@1cent wrote:

Wouldn't you have about the same number either way? Or do you mean that all the companies that pay you less than $600 in a year add up to 100?

@stormraven73 wrote:

Did anyone see the email from MSPA about "defending evaluator independence?" I'm not sure whether they had this issue in mind or it was just a timely topic, but either way I am glad they are taking this on. I, for one, am glad to be an IC. I have no interest in being classified as an employee for shopping, if for no other reason than that my taxes would be a nightmare. Having a handful of 1099s is bad enough. Can you imagine 100 W2s?

I only earn more than $600 from a handful of companies, but I do at least one shop per year from many more.

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Actually If I had to choose from 100 1099 vs 100 W2, I would choose W2 any day. At least with the right withholdings, I wouldn’t worry about owing additional taxes... and I would feel good knowing that my income is fully counted towards social security.
If I had a voice in the matter, I would vote for shopper independence. If shoppers do not like the prevailing conditions, they can choose to do something else. There are other MSCs, other job types, and other pay structures. No shopper is forced or compelled to rely upon ACL for work, meals, or anything else. If shoppers find it beneficial (for tax or other purposes) to work for reimbursement only, they should be free to choose this option. ACL provides opportunities for this situation. No one should curtail shopper options!

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. - Stanley Horowitz
@LindaM wrote:

Actually If I had to choose from 100 1099 vs 100 W2, I would choose W2 any day. At least with the right withholdings, I wouldn’t worry about owing additional taxes... and I would feel good knowing that my income is fully counted towards social security.

My point was that I would receive a W2 from every company, even if I only did one shop that year, making far more paperwork for me and for them. And if you are filing Sch C and keeping proper books then your income IS fully counted for SS. You should also know exactly what is owed (if any...milage deductions shelter 95% of my income from taxes) at any given time if you are keeping proper books.
No, there are no minimum hours to be considered employees. Part time workers might work 1 to 34 (or up to 39, depending on the state) hours per week. The typical $15 mystery shop job takes about 2 hours (reviewing the guidelines, conducting the shop, consolidating notes from the shop, preparing materials to scan, reporting the shop and uploading materials, etc.) and that's not iincluding travel time.

@Irene_L.A. wrote:

Wondering if one has to put in so many hours to be considered employees, which leaves us out.
It's hard to answer because we don't know all of the details of the situation. We're told one thing but we don't know all of the aspects of the "Experiments" or "Mystery Shopping experiments" Who gets the info? What's it used for? How much money is involved? The STATE of California is always taxing everything. I lived there for 15 years so I know we had local city tax, state tax, and fed tax. On top of that gas was $4.60 per gallon. Therefore, if they can get some money from Mystery Shoppers for a violation then they will Squeeze every dime out of them they can. But how can we as shoppers get more of that money? Because everyone wants something from us. I think all shoppers should watch the movied called Experimenter The Stanley Migram Story. You will find similarities. Studies, Mystery Shops, and social experiments. They have some similarities. I would love to see and find out what you see or learn.
[www.imdb.com]
This is why I love lawyers and love how they have paid money to see the world differently. They may see a violation that we don't know about. In my opinion they are the ones who beam the lights on the injustice.
It's a state investigation. If the company isn't doing anything wrong (and for the record, I don't think they are: I only take ACL jobs that I think are worth the trouble for the payment/reimbursement. I'm not forced to do anything I don't want to), then there's no harm in providing the agency with information that it needs to complete its investigation. If what ACL is doing *is* no longer kosher according to California's laws, then they should know about it. Either way, cooperating with the investigation is going to make whole thing wrap up faster.

Shopper in California's Bay Area
Yeah I'm not saying they did anything wrong. If they're cooperating then it is what it is. a lot of people probably depend on them and I'm sure things will get settled.
Check this article in Vox. Apparently California is cracking down on some "abuses" of the gig economy. (This may have nothing to do w ACL.)

[www.vox.com]

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/31/2019 02:13AM by Susan L..
"The ruling and the bill instruct businesses to use the so-called “ABC test” to figure out whether a worker is an employee. To hire an independent contractor, businesses must prove that the worker (a) is free from the company’s control, (b) is doing work that isn’t central to the company’s business, and (c) has an independent business in that industry. If they don’t meet all three of those conditions, then they have to be classified as employees."

ACL is not going to pass that second standard if this becomes law in CA.
Wow.

Using this ABC test, I think ACL would fail both B and C. B: The work shoppers do constitutes ACL's entire business. C: A lot (perhaps a majority) of ACL's shoppers performing their reimbursement-only shops probably shop as a hobby, have a traditional job, and do not have an independent mystery shopping business.

This will be interesting.

@Niner wrote:

"The ruling and the bill instruct businesses to use the so-called “ABC test” to figure out whether a worker is an employee. To hire an independent contractor, businesses must prove that the worker (a) is free from the company’s control, (b) is doing work that isn’t central to the company’s business, and (c) has an independent business in that industry. If they don’t meet all three of those conditions, then they have to be classified as employees."

ACL is not going to pass that second standard if this becomes law in CA.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/31/2019 04:12AM by MSF.
deleted, other posts above answered my question

@HonnyBrown wrote:

Someone posted a few months back that ICs in CA were now employees. This just might stick.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/31/2019 04:24AM by ShopperFun99.
Some on this board might say that their own mystery shopping is a business. Me personally, I’ve never considered this a business. For something to be a business, in my own sole opinion, there has to be some ability to expand and hire staff... I’ve never met a mystery shopper with a staff on payroll!
I see. I lived in Socal for 15 years and I didn't find these types of jobs. Some companies do not hire in state of California and Las Vegas. It's super interesting to learn about rules. Thanks for posting I had no idea.
No individual MSer is "central to their business." Also, their business is finding ICs to do their clients' work.

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
@SusiequeRouter: I love the fine distinction you are making here. How are employees similar to and different from ICs? Some of the stated guidelines for performance and attire are for specific purposes. Whether employee or IC, you must follow the script, format, or other required acts and words. This provides the same opportunity for all situations. For many assignments, there is an underlying research approach in which each targeted or randomly encountered associate must be tested similarly. In another example, I am an employee who must read scripted information and questions to each respondent. This assures that all respondents are responding (in whatever way) to the same stimulus (of information and questions). This is a feature of neutrality. Attire might be more a matter of common sense than of being an employee. For example, if you are working inside a location as a merchandiser, you should be distinguishable from someone who wandered in off of the beach in flip-flops and a swimsuit with a towel over a shoulder. You might want long sleeves to protect arms. Long pant legs might protect legs. If they require closed shoes, this is for everyone's protection. Feet are vulnerable! The are at the bottom of a gravity-enhanced drop. Give yourself a chance to stay well on the job and wear the closed shoes if there is any possibility that your tootsies could encounter caustic substances, falling objects, or the underside of rolling objects. The host site, the MSC, and/or the client might appreciate the barrier of shoes as a possible safety feature and reduction of liability incidents.

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. - Stanley Horowitz
I had to laugh out loud yesterday when I heard an ad on the radio for a local company. "We're looking for 1099 Independent Contractor Employees!" they gleefully announced.

Maybe I should call them and straighten them out?

LOL!!!
@walesmaven wrote:

No individual MSer is "central to their business." Also, their business is finding ICs to do their clients' work.

Wales, this is the specific point that CA is sticking on, however. There's nothing is the statement, "is doing work that isn’t central to the company’s business" that implies that the IC must be personally integral to the business. They are Mystery Shopping company. We are Mystery Shoppers. Shoppers could not be more central to the business. We are core to the product they offer.

You don't have to be happy about the ruling or investigation, but please be realistic about it.
Anyone wonder how they obtained our mailing addresses? I would assume ACL was required to provide this info to the California Department of Industrial Relations. Too bad ACL could not tell us about the investigation but I assume they are prohibited from doing so. It would be informative to know more about this. I discarded the letter I received as it just didn’t seem to apply to me as a mystery shopper.
K. So. As a group, the ACL shoppers are integral and central to some of the work that is performed at or by ACL. (The shoppers do not serve as the corporate attorneys, comptrollers, property cleaners, etc.) The names of the shoppers may change over time, but the work they perform remains essential and necessary because it fulfills contractual obligations. Is that sufficient to be central to at least some of the work that ACL does or for which it is responsible?

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. - Stanley Horowitz
I would assume that ACL's revenue is generated entirely or almost entirely from the services performed by its shoppers. Attorneys, accountants, the hr department, etc. do not generate revenue for ACL, they are operational units and part of ACL's expenses. ACL, like any other business, has expenses that when subtracted from their revenue leaves either a profit or a loss. (I would assume that ACL operates at a profit.) ACL is a service business and shoppers (not attorneys, accountants, hr, etc.) provide the service.

@Shop-et-al wrote:

K. So. As a group, the ACL shoppers are integral and central to some of the work that is performed at or by ACL. (The shoppers do not serve as the corporate attorneys, comptrollers, property cleaners, etc.) The names of the shoppers may change over time, but the work they perform remains essential and necessary because it fulfills contractual obligations. Is that sufficient to be central to at least some of the work that ACL does or for which it is responsible?
@LindaM wrote:

Some on this board might say that their own mystery shopping is a business. Me personally, I’ve never considered this a business. For something to be a business, in my own sole opinion, there has to be some ability to expand and hire staff... I’ve never met a mystery shopper with a staff on payroll!

Most MS jobs require the shopper to do all the work and even have a little affidavit on the form to attest that they did all the work. So most shoppers cannot use employees to do any of their mystery shoppping tasks even if they could afford to pay them.
@walesmaven wrote:

No individual MSer is "central to their business." Also, their business is finding ICs to do their clients' work.

They work with the clients to come up with guidelines. They use schedulers to find shoppers to do the work. They set the pay rates. They hire editors to go over the shoppers work. They delete shoppers from their rosters and beg for more shoppers. They contract with Sassie and shopmetrics and prophet for a platform for entering shop data. For most of the MS companies MS shopping constitutes ALL of their business.
@scorpionshar777 wrote:

I lived there for 15 years so I know we had local city tax, state tax, and fed tax. On top of that gas was $4.60 per gallon.
[www.imdb.com]
My spouse is a tax accountant in California. I am told there are no city taxes but there are business taxes. The state is investigating gasoline prices. There is a voter-approved tax for road repair built into per-gallon price but it is wrong to say that gas prices (currently around $4 a gallon) are due to taxes. . Lack of competition and the ability of refiners to jack up prices whenever their profits dip is a big reason.

But bringing this back to the OP, I just received the state labor letter, too. I will call the phone number Monday to see what's up. As others have opined, there are lots of reasons why ACL will be getting "a closer look" from the state. Initial reporting indicates that the general look into ICs is directed at Uber and Lyft. Businesses can be creative in declaring employees as ICs. It means not having to pay Social Security, disability, etc. or having to observe wage and hour laws.

Finally, I don't get enough from ACL to get a W-2 but I declare every dollar I make plus claim all deductions for mileage. It is worth noting that the state knew about my paltry earnings from ACL so folks who think they can scam the taxpayers by not reporting are taking a big chance. (ACL may have been told to provide the labor board a list of names, etc.)

Thanks to the OP. When I got the labor board letter I went to the forum to see what was up.

Shopping SoCal and Maui.
There are cities in California that charge Local City Taxes to those in the Entertainment industry such as Actors, writers, producers, musicians, athletes, comedians, etc. you get the point. THEY have to pay EXTRA local city taxes.. You can look it up yourself. You don't need your husband to tell you. In this day and age there is no sense in any of use relying on others to inform us. You can also call the local tax office in for e. Local City taxes exist. I lived there and had to pay EXTRA and it was terrible. Culver City, Santa Monica, parts of L.A. Some might have filed for an exemption so they don't need to pay it. Most Actors/Entertainers have a business they have to have a EIN for work. EVEN Youtubers the famous ones who make a bunch of money. L.A. wants that money. Anyway, here are some sites to get you started. You an also contact the city of Santa Monica, California to get mor information on Creative Artist Exemptions for people in Entertainment industry or contact SAG/Aftra and ask them. Information is everywhere. We learn something new every single day. We don't know everything. I'm sharing personal experience and information that can be looked up without using these links. You can again call and find out for yourself if it's necessary. This is why you see many of the famous actors do not live in L.A. I only did background & stand in work and with new media contracts it became challenging because studios no longer want to pay union people because they can post anywhere and get the workers for free, cheaper than cheap without union rules. Many of them live in L.A. temporary or as visitors but reside in other states A big number of them moved to AUSTIN, TEXAS. Now Austin is getting majorly expensive. I've also noticed that people don't give real facts in life they always leave out details. Many of the people in L.A. brag about how good the weather is and etc. But you never hear anyone complaining about a lot of issues that they have there that are causing people to leave but it also causes many to move there. In L.A. you could pay 70% of your income in taxes. (Federal, State, and Local City) This is why so many people create businesses because they are able to get deductions. If you go to LA near any tax office you will see people out on street hustling trying to sell you a package to create a LLC. No joke. If you're a dog walker you create a business. If you do hair.. Set up a business. If you are actor.. business. Many states only have ONE tax that's better for me.


[www.youtube.com]

[business.lacity.org]

[finance.lacity.org]

some people have to file for exemptions but it's a process. They must contact the local city for more information.

[www.youtube.com] Sag/Aftra Foundation

[www.youtube.com]


[www.sagaftra.org] but it didn't hit until 2007 some actors had to pay back tax in 2008.

[axislegalca.com]

[www.afm47.org]

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/02/2019 01:18AM by scorpionshar777.
@oteixeira wrote:

So, you signed up and agreed to be an IC, and then you accepted jobs and agreed to do them for the pay that you received (or your reimbursement), and now a lawyer has decided a group of people can go after them for back wages they were never offered or negotiated for? This is why I hate lawyers, and this to me is a totally frivolous lawsuit.

I agree and I'm a lawyer!! I received the same letter today and I'm NOT filling out the questionnaire.
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