Virginia’s pro-business policies encourage workers to chart their own entrepreneurial course. But new state regulations aimed at addressing misclassifications could undermine the Commonwealth’s burgeoning freelance workforce.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor announced proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act to impose barriers on workers who wish to work as independent contractors. If adopted, the rule would impose strict criteria on independent workers to prove they are not workers in the form of a new test of economic reality. This is a major departure from the Trump-era rule that favored a flexible worker model.

As a full-time freelancer in Virginia, I would be penalized for honestly living out the freelance lifestyle according to these dull worker guidelines.

The DOL argues that this revision would curb perceived misclassifications in the workplace. However, the reclassification of most workers as employees makes them candidates for union jobs – a declining sector accounting for just 10.3% of the workforce. Virginia workers who survived the pandemic with independent work do not want bureaucrats to destroy their livelihoods.

Drafting federal regulations aimed at barring independent contracts would be costly to Virginia’s economy.

According to the American Action Forum, the Commonwealth has 557,643 independent workers. That’s about 15% of our total non-union private sector workforce – or 3,445,000 private sector workers.

For example, if 50% of freelance workers were converted to traditional workers, the cost would be $1.28 billion. When this projection of eviction is contrasted with the alleged cost of misclassification in Virginia — allegedly $28 million in “lost revenue” — reclassification poses a greater threat to workers’ liberty.

That’s why a majority of freelancers in Virginia, like their peers in 49 other states, are content with their status and not tied to a single employer.