NJBIA's Public Policy Forum: The Road to Recovery REGISTER

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The independent contractor issue has been quiet lately, but those concerned about the state’s efforts to revamp the employee misclassification law should not think the debate is over.

The Legislature has moved on to other issues, but according to Chrissy Buteas, NJBIA’s chief government affairs officer, the measure remains a priority for Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

“NJBIA expects this issue to come up again this year at some point,” Buteas said. “Legislative leaders in both houses are convinced that companies are abusing the system. Hopefully this time around we can get a bill that protects legitimate independent contractors and the companies that use them while giving the state the tools it needs to enforce the law against truly bad actors.”

A bill revamping the state’s misclassification law in the previous session alarmed independent contractors in New Jersey because it went well beyond addressing the classification issues of ride sharing companies. Freelance writers, independent truck drivers, and other groups that have traditionally been able to operate independently saw the new standards as forcing them out of the New Jersey workforce.  Many businesses, especially small start-ups, saw the bill as unfairly harming their business model.

NJBIA was a leading advocate against the independent contractor bill last year, and while there has been no action on the issue in 2020, the association is preparing for the upcoming debate. NJBIA is maintaining its Independent Contractor Coalition and is ready to work with bill sponsors to craft the proper language in a new bill. If you haven’t done so already, contact NJBIA to join the coalition.

“Right now, we have to guard against complacency,” Buteas said. “Businesses have properly used independent contractors for decades for everything from cleaning office buildings to hauling goods across the country. We need to guard against the unintended consequences and economic disruption of outlawing legitimate independent contractors and putting New Jersey businesses at yet another competitive disadvantage against their peers in other states.”

Many independent contractors indicated that the mere introduction of the bill created a sense that New Jersey was “cracking down” on companies using independent contractors, which hurt their ability to get work in New Jersey. After all, it’s the companies that get penalized if they are found to have misclassified an employee.  NJBIA is committed to resolving this issue in a manner that both protects legitimate independent contractors and allows businesses to confidently engage their services.