Business of VO: The ABC’s of AB-5

If you live in California, you’ve probably heard and felt much of the fear and uncertainty around California’s labor legislation AB5. What is it? Are you an employee? Or, are you an independent consultant? Well…it depends. Anne’s encouraging and informative interview with 3 x special guest Rob Sciglimpaglia, a lawyer with deep knowledge of employment and compensation issues, voice artist, Amazon bestselling author, award-winning producer and actor gives assurance to California-based talent to stay their course. Find out if this law is really as easy as ABC.

And since similar legislation is turning up in other states such as NJ, NY, ILL and even at the national level (HR2474), this discussion is worthwhile for talent throughout all our 50 states. 


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. AB-5 defines who is an employee vs who is an independent contractor

  2. Employees have more rights

  3. The ABC test answers who is an employee under the law

  4. ABC Test: A- Is the worker free from control and direction? B- The worker performs work that is outside of the usual work of the hiring entity and C- the worker is regularly engaged in this work

  5. The “B” part of this test is the most important

  6. Employers in California MUST use the ABC test

  7. Here’s how the ABC test applies to voiceovers (in Rob’s opinion): A VO is being hired by a recording studio, or animation studio, or an agent, and these are in a different profession, so a VO is not an employee

  8. It’s arbitrary and this could be intepreted different ways

  9. Union voice artists are already employees

  10. Loan out companies are also a murky issue

  11. Is VO Exempt as a “fine art?”: There’s no definition, so we don’t know

  12. The fines that companies have to pay are making people afraid and only willing to hire “employees”, this damaging the gig economy

  13. You will not be fined if you work as an independent contractor, when you should have been an employee. The company hiring you would face fines

  14. To pay as an employee, you have to pay half of the taxes and then have the other half taken out of their paycheck

  15. You can hire an editor, that’s a different profession

  16. You can hire a personal assistant, if they have a certain degree of freedom

  17. Each state has their own version of this law. The ABC test is a federal test

  18. If you’re an independent contractor, you pay all the taxes, vs as an employee, the hiring company pays half of the taxes

  19. The court is going to have to interpret this law before we have any concrete answers

  20. When you use an paymaster you’re being payed as an employee

  21. The potential hirer might make you fill out a lot more forms!

  22. Anything we should have in our contracts to protect us from violating AB5? Burden is on person hiring the VO to do the ABC test.

  23. It should be as simple as you have to pass the ABC test. It may not be that simple for the hiring entity, they may require additional paperwork to determine you are IC.

  24. AB5 will spur litigation of many other cases which will define the legal effect. It’s impossible to codify every situation for IC versus employee.  

  25. If you’re paid as an employee, or through a paymaster, there is no worry.

  26. If you’re hiring a VO to do something not in your profession, they are ICs. If you are hiring them in same profession, pay through a paymaster.

  27. Just keep doing what we’re doing. Unless you’re being hired by another voice talent, you are not an employee

  28. We’ll have more understanding once the first big case is litigated

Tweet This

Share ideas with your own network ++

I feel so relieved to know I'm still an independent contractor! #VOBOSS

Keep Calm and Independent Contract On! #VOBOSS

Now I know my ABC's, now who wants to hire me? #VOBOSS C

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

  1. Read the text of AB-5

  2. Read more about AB-5

  3. Check out Vocal Booth To Go and get 5% off with code: VOTech-Guru-5

  4. Find out about Rob and his book Voice Over Legal

  5. Learn more about 

  6. Recorded on ipDTL

  7. Awesome editing by Carl Bahner

AB-5 Specific Resources:

Facebook Groups:

Freelancers Against AB5

Fight AB5

Freelancers & Gigging Musicians Fighting AB5


Faces of AB5 @Ab5Of  (also ref

@KevinKileyCA –  CA Assemblyman, will be initiating a vote on #AB1928 (Repeal of #AB5) by the whole Assembly.

Other:  (includes VO stories)

Freelancers Against “Pro Act” (the national version of AB5)

Peter J. Marx, an attorney and voice actor:

  1. VoiceOverXtra – 01/20 states: “In reality, AB 5 is of less concern for voice actors than for those who hire them. Misclassification can have substantial negative consequences for the hiring entity, as was already the case prior to the enactment of AB 5, which simply made it more difficult to classify a worker as an independent contractor.”

  2. 01/20:

Forbes 02/27/20: “Will California’s AB5 Law Gag Your Gig Retirement?”

“In terms of consequences (whether intended or unintended), AB5 might more descriptively be called the “Gig Gag Law.” “California-based companies/employers are responsible for making sure all of their contractors are properly classified,” say Emily D. Baker, an attorney and podcast host based in Los Angeles. “However, for contractors that live in California and work with out of state businesses the contractor and the business