Three customers sat on Bottle & Barlow’s patio Wednesday afternoon, sipping cocktails and soaking up the last bits of summer sun. That was a crowd compared to the scene inside, where owner Anthony Giannotti was the only person left to cut hair.
Giannotti’s entire seven-person staff of independent contractors quit rather be reclassified as employees, he said. It’s one of the first local dominoes to fall as a result of the state Supreme Court’s decision in April of Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court, which redefined who can work as an independent contractor.
The Dynamex decision narrowed the definition of an independent contractor to those who ran their own business outside of the job they were hired for, performed work outside the usual scope of the hiring company’s main function and were “free from the control and direction” of the company.
Many hairstylists get into the trade for its flexible hours and opportunity for entrepreneurship, leaving the prospect of being an employee with set work times and withheld taxes unappealing, Giannotti said. On his end, it means paying workers upwards of $30 and hour in the next 2 to 4 years.
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“They have really gutted us,” he said. “You can’t hire and structure things the way (barbershops) have for decades. They’ve just destroyed the pay structure for the barber and cosmetology industry.”
Giannotti and his ex-workers parted amicably, he said, and they all intend to work in other shops or open up their own practice. Bottle & Barlow has already hired two employees to fill their shoes, though the barbershop likely won’t be fully staffed for months.
The salon half of Bottle & Barlow, which was founded in 2015 as a joint bar and barbershop in the WAL building on R Street, was closed Saturday until Wednesday. The Dynamex ruling won’t affect bar service, Giannotti said.
Labor groups supported the court’s ruling in the Dynamex lawsuit, which came about when four truck drivers sued their employer for reclassifying them in an attempt to cut costs back in 2004. An estimated 2 million Californians are working as independent contractors, including delivery drivers, childcare workers and tattoo artists, were affected by the ruling.
Bottle & Barlow will host an informational seminar on the changes Sept. 16, with Giannotti and other business owners tabbed as speakers as well as an attorney from Meyer Law Offices.