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Barbers worried about California Supreme Court ruling

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Barbers are worried they might be out of work and barbershop owners are worried they might need to close up shop, all because of a California Supreme Court ruling.

The April court decision redefines who can be an independent contractor in California.

In order to be an independent contractor, the worker must satisfy three criteria:

  1. The worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
  2. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business;
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

Anyone who works for a company and doesn't meet all three of those criteria is an employee, not an independent contractor. Under state and federal labor laws, the employer would need to pay that person at least a minimum hourly wage, pay the government unemployment and labor taxes, and possibly even provide the employee with medical benefits.

Because of this many industries, such as barbershops, are now caught in a position which may force them to close their doors.

Most barbers, and other business people such as tattoo artists and personal trainers, aren't employees. Most barbers are actually contractors who rent the space they use in the shop to cut hair. They also pay a share of the utility bills.

The money customers pay for them for haircut belongs to them and they need to manage it in order to stay in business.

Now these barbers have two options. Their first option is to become regular employees, but local barber Paul Castro told Eyewitness News that won't help them stay in business.

"We wouldn't be able to stay afloat if we had to charge what we actually have to charge for us to get paid hourly," he said.

The other option barbers have is to become their own businesses, with their own locations, but that eliminates the benefit of having other barbers dividing overhead costs.

Castro's real gripe is that this new system destroys the barbershop experience, which has been making a comeback lately, and without that he isn't sure he wants to be a barber.

"It won't be the same, ever again," he said. "If it's just going to be me cutting hair. I'm sure the customer won't mind if they get what they want but it's going to destroy the whole point of working at a barber shop, it's just going to be a barber studio or a hair-cutting studio."

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