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Advocacy

Last Updated: August 19, 2020

Yoga Alliance has a responsibility to protect and support you, our members, and the broader yoga community so you may freely practice and teach highly quality, safe, accessible, and equitable yoga free from government regulation. We oppose unnecessary regulation that stifles the diversity of yoga, serves no benefit to the public, or unfairly targets the yoga community. Our advocacy work includes closely monitoring relevant legislation and updating our members with relevant information that may affect their livelihoods, as well as interpreting legislative changes for your convenience and implementation. Below, you can learn more about specific efforts in the areas of private post-secondary education laws, worker classification and employer resources, and special issues.

If you are a Yoga Alliance member, make sure that you have added advocacy alerts to your email preferences in your profile to receive these updates as we have them. You may also frequent this webpage as it is regularly updated with Yoga Alliance advocacy news.

 

Worker classification (i.e., whether an individual is classified as an “employee” or an “independent contractor”) is an important issue that impacts every business, regardless of industry. Worker classification affects how workers are paid, what taxes may be owed, and whether a business must comply with various employment and labor laws with regard to its workers. Because worker classification is an inherently fact-specific and detailed analysis that can result in significant liability for a business that does not properly classify its workers, businesses are encouraged to consult with legal counsel when making these determinations.

Here we provide background on worker classification and employer obligations, as well as links to federal and state-specific resources, as a resource for our members. This information is based on United States laws and regulations.

The information contained on this page does not constitute legal advice, and Yoga Alliance recommends that members seek the advice of counsel in determining what state laws and regulations may apply to their businesses.

 

Understanding the Distinctions between Employees and Independent Contractors

Workers must generally be classified as “employees” unless they meet certain requirements to be exempt from the coverage of the United States’ Fair Labor Standards Act and any similar state or local laws. Workers who are classified as employees are entitled to certain benefits and protections depending on applicable law, such as overtime and minimum wage requirements, workers’ compensation insurance, paid sick leave, protection against discrimination, and more. Businesses are required to withhold income tax as well as withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for their employees.

Independent contractors, on the other hand, are not afforded the same protections under various employment laws and are responsible for paying their own income taxes. Businesses are generally not obligated to withhold income, Social Security, and/or Medicare taxes on their behalf.

Worker classification standards vary but generally hinge on the level of control the business exerts over the worker. The federal and state governments employ various tests to determine the level of control a business must exercise in order to classify a worker as an employee rather than as an independent contractor.

Most notably, California recently passed AB-5, which codifies the ABC Test (defined below) for purposes of unemployment insurance, wage orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission, and the California Labor Code. As a result, California businesses are now held to the below standard in proving workers are independent contractors. Please visit Yoga Alliance’s California AB-5 resources page for more information.

  • ABC Test: This test is generally considered to be the most onerous test for businesses trying to prove their workers are independent contractors, as businesses must prove all three of the following elements:

    1. The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work;
    2. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
    3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade.

Though there are many variations of the worker vs. independent contractor test, they generally afford little to no weight to a business’s characterization of the worker and also generally require that the business prove proper classification as an independent contractor.

 

Employee Benefits and Protections and Employer Obligations

At both the federal and state levels, various laws provide employees with certain benefits and protections and impose requirements on employers. These same obligations are generally not applicable to independent contractors, whose working relationships are generally covered by state contract law.

  • Taxes: Employers are generally responsible for payroll taxes and making appropriate withholdings on behalf of employees. Tax liabilities for misclassification are significant and may include criminal penalties.
  • Unemployment Insurance: While unemployment insurance is a federally-created program monitored by the DOL, each state administers its own unemployment insurance program and sets its own eligibility requirements. Generally, employees are eligible for unemployment benefits if their separation from employment is through no fault of their own, and they are ready, willing, and able to work. Together with the state unemployment tax systems, the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) provides funds to pay these benefits, requiring most employers pay both a federal and state unemployment tax. An employer that misclassifies its employees may be liable for unpaid unemployment taxes, penalties, and interest.
  • Workers’ Compensation: Most states require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, which provides benefits to employees for certain on-the-job injuries and occupational illnesses. Under state workers’ compensation laws, misclassifying an employee may result in liability for any unpaid workers’ compensation premiums and other penalties.
  • Wage Laws: Employers must comply with all wage laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which establishes the federal minimum wage and overtime pay, and any state and local wage and hours laws as well. Many states have passed minimum wage and other laws that far exceed the obligations of the FLSA, and so it is important to consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable requirements. Failure to comply with applicable wage laws may result in significant financial liability for employers.
  • Anti-Discrimination Laws: Employees are also generally entitled to protection under numerous anti-discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Equal Pay Act (EPA). Discrimination can be an area of significant legal exposure for employers. While the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these federal anti-discrimination laws, many states have passed their own anti-discrimination laws, which may cover additional employers or protected categories.
  • Recordkeeping Requirements: Many of the above-mentioned employment statutes contain company recordkeeping requirements for employees. For example, the FLSA imposes specific requirements about records employers must keep for each nonexempt employee, but does not require such records for independent contractors.
  • Other: This list is not exhaustive—there are numerous other federal, state, and local laws that impose obligations upon employers to protect and provide benefits to their employees, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and state and local paid sick leave laws. As a result, businesses are urged to consult with legal counsel regarding classification issues and proper treatment of all workers.

 

Yoga Alliance closely monitors within the United States the implementation of state “private post-secondary education” laws that have been applied to yoga teacher training (YTT) programs, including Registered Yoga Schools (RYSs). Here we provide background on private post-secondary education laws, associated regulations, and their impact on YTTs across the country as a resource for our RYS members.

The information contained on this page does not constitute legal advice, and Yoga Alliance recommends that members seek the advice of counsel in determining what state laws and regulations may apply to their businesses.

 

Overview of Private Post-Secondary Education Laws and Regulations

Many states within the United States have enacted laws to regulate or license private post-secondary schools and programs, also known as career schools, vocational training schools, or occupational schools. Generally, the institutions and programs regulated under these laws are non-public schools and programs, other than accredited colleges, universities, and degree-granting programs, that are designed to prepare students for careers and occupations.

Regulated schools and programs must meet certain standards and requirements to operate in a state. The specific regulatory requirements vary across states but typically include adherence to certain policies related to student admissions, instructor qualifications, and facilities. Regulated schools and programs are also usually required to pay fees–at the time of their initial application and during any renewal period–and maintain a surety bond.

States that regulate private post-secondary schools and programs set up a state board, agency, or commission that is tasked with administering regulatory and licensing requirements. These regulators interpret the state laws and regulations that set criteria for which schools and programs are subject to regulation. This means that regulators in some states interpret their state law broadly to cover many types of schools and programs, while regulators in other states focus on narrow categories of schools and programs to regulate. Further, many state statutes exempt certain types of schools and programs from regulation entirely. For example, many states exempt programs that are purely “avocational” or “recreational” in nature, commonly defined as a program or course where the objective is developing a hobby or personal enrichment rather than an occupational advantage. However, the state regulators are ultimately responsible for determining which schools and programs fall into statutory exemptions, and regulators can–and often do–take a different approach from state to state.

Regulators in some states have categorized a YTT, including an RYS, as the type of program that should be regulated under private post-secondary school laws. Other state regulators have not interpreted their existing private post-secondary school laws to apply to YTTs. Moreover, several states–often after successful advocacy efforts spearheaded by Yoga Alliance–specifically exempt YTTs or yoga practice or instruction from the categories of schools and programs that the states regulate.

Given the differing regulatory landscape from state to state, it is important for RYS members to understand:

  • Whether their state regulates “private post-secondary” (or “career,” “occupational,” or “vocational”) schools and programs;
  • If so, the scope of those regulations and which types of schools and programs are subject to regulation;
  • Whether there are additional criteria (size, revenue thresholds, etc.) that determine whether a school or program is regulated as a private postsecondary institution; and
  • The regulatory and licensure requirements for regulated schools and programs.

To assist our RYS members, the drop-down below provides the following information for each state:

  1. Whether the state regulates private post-secondary schools;
  2. Whether the state’s statute and/or regulations address(es) yoga teacher training programs;
  3. Whether publicly available information indicates that the state is currently regulating any yoga schools and/or programs; and
  4. Links to state-specific resources.

 

In addition to the other categories, Yoga Alliance monitors a variety of distinct state-specific regulations and legislation that impact yoga professionals and the yoga community.

 

Select a Jurisdiction

On behalf of the U.S. yoga community, Yoga Alliance President and CEO Shannon Roche sent a letter to the bipartisan Congressional leadership urging them to renew COVID-19 relief for unemployed individuals and struggling small businesses. As Congress debates ongoing financial relief, the communication encouraged continued, essential emergency funds which would benefit small yoga studios and yoga teacher training programs.

Read the Letter

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