MRA has been working to protect the status of independent contractor relationships, which has been under threat from the Obama Administration and a bill in California. We've seen some recent significant moves:
- Department of Labor's "Right to Know" regulations opposed by Congress: The forthcoming Labor/HHS Fiscal Year 2012 federal appropriations legislation, in Section 113, would eliminate funding for the Department of Labor to "continue the development of or to promulgate" the agency's "Right to Know" regulation. Also, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline joined Reps. Tim Walberg and Richard Hanna in sending a letter on September 30 to the Department of Labor, requesting information concerning its anticipated "Right to Know" rulemaking. MRA worked with our coalition partners to help make both wins possible. You can read MRA's previous discussion of the "Right to Know" rules here.
- Obama Administration proposal to repeal Section 530 opposed by MRA during "Super Committee" process: MRA is lobbying members of the so-called deficit reduction "super committee" to reject the President's proposal to repeal Section 530 protections for independent contractor status.
- California S.B. 459 stripped of most onerous provisions before passage into law: S.B. 459 would have burdened all businesses that legitimately use the services of independent contractors, including survey and opinion research companies that offer respondents incentives for participation. Thanks to the efforts of MRA and our coalition partners, Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed S.B. 459 into law on October 9 as Chapter 706 without those egregious burdens. The new law is still quite harsh, but focuses on punishment of violators rather than all businesses:
- "Willful misclassification of an individual as an independent contractor" would be outlawed, with penalties between $5,000 and $15,000 "for each violation, in addition to any other penalties orfines permitted by law."
- "Willful misclassification" means avoiding employee status for an individual by voluntarily and knowingly misclassifying that individual as an independent contractor.
- Engaging "in a pattern or practice of these violations" would raise those penalties to $10,000 to $25,000.
- A violator would have "to display prominently on its Internet Web site, in an area which is accessible to all employees and the general public, or, if the person or employer does not have an Internet Web site, to display prominently in an area that is accessible to all employees and the general public at each location where a violation of subdivision (a) occurred, a notice that sets forth all of the following: (1) That the Labor and Workforce Development Agency or a court, as applicable, has found that the person or employer has committed a serious violation of the law by engaging in the willful misclassification of employees. (2) That the person or employer has changed its business practices in order to avoid committing further violations of this section. (3) That any employee who believes that he or she is being misclassified as an independent contractor may contact the Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The notice shall include the mailing address, e-mail address, and telephone number of the agency. (4) That the notice is being posted pursuant to a state order."
These are some concrete positive actions -- and MRA will continue to advocate on these issues at the state and federal level to protect the research profession and deliver results.