If you're a remodeler, new-home builders, or construction supply firm that takes pride in how you keep an army of independent subcontractors working virtually fulltime for them should take note: Washington increasingly views your relationship as good reason for making you treat those subs as employees.

The toughening stance at the Labor Department (DOL) on the issue--best exemplified by an administrator's interpretation issued July 15 by the head of the Wage and Hour Division--has set off alerts within the construction community. At the least, Washington's stepped-up campaign should prompt companies that treat subcontractors as independent firms to re-examine whether their business practices can pass Labor's evolving standards.  One good starting question is: Do you give your subs so much work that they pretty much don't do jobs for anyone else? 

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